Questions plague McCrory administration early on - WNCN: News, Weather

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Questions plague McCrory administration early on

RALEIGH, N.C. -

Questions and critics have plagued the McCrory administration since he took office.

Why did he give his new cabinet hefty raises while lower-paid state workers continue to struggle? And did some of their political contributions get them the job?

The administration has been trying to put these questions to rest. But NBC-17 Investigates did its own digging. Here's a look at what we found:

McCrory has eight cabinet members -- four Republicans, three unaffiliated and one Democrat.

He's touted what he calls a bipartisan team. But are they really?

One of those unaffiliated -- Department of Transportation chief Tony Tata -- has heavily supported Republican candidates in pictures and in public statements obtained by NBC-17.

And the unaffiliated John Skvarla, the new secretary of Environmental and Natural Resources, is a major GOP donor, despite no party affiliation on paper.

Questions have also been raised as to whether party politics or political donations helped land some of the cabinet members their jobs. Critics seem to think so.

"I think it's very clear -- money played a substantial role," said Gerrick Brenner, with Progress NC.

But he added, "We wish them well. These are people who are going to be controlling agencies in state government, with a lot of people depending on their success."

Brenner and his liberal watchdog group have gone so far as to set up a website called "PAY-TO-PLAY PAT," and released a 35-page report, which accuses the governor of handing out his top posts to high-rolling donors.

NBC-17 Investigates did its own research into just how much the new cabinet donated and to whom. State and federal campaign finance records dating back more than 10 years revealed that more than half the cabinet were major GOP donors.

Secretary of Public Safety Kieran Shanahan donated more than $70,000 to GOP candidates and committees in recent years. And Secretary of Health and Human Services Aldona Wos gave more than$250,000 to Republicans, including thousands to McCrory's campaigns.

When asked if anyone bought their position, McCrory spokesman Chris Walker replied, "Of course not. Of course not."

When pressed further on whether donations played a role in appointments, he said, "It's irrelevant. It's not something we ever discussed in the transition."

Walker added, "He went through a vast pool of talent."

But McCrory ended up with a transportation chief, Tata, who was recently fired from the state's largest school system after its board majority determined him unfit to lead. He was also in power during a start-of-the-school-year busing debacle. When McCrory appointed him, that gave democrats plenty of fodder.

"It's especially surprising because General Tata proved he couldn't figure out a way to bus Raleigh kids to school. It's surprising to see him take over the role of transportation for the entire state," said Clay Pittman, with the N.C. Democratic Party.

Now come the salaries. Before they even started, McCrory elected to give the entire cabinet a raise. Some will get a bump of more than $10,000 a year, bringing home more than $130,000.

"My current cabinet secretaries actually have many people working for them that make more money than they do," McCrory said of the raises.

He also mentioned that Wos is working for a dollar a year, as is budget director Art Pope, because of their considerable means. Not to mention, the cabinet members could make far more in the private sector.

But tell that to the legions of lower paid state workers -- some of whom have cried foul.

None the less, the McCrory administration stands by their contention that his is a bipartisan cabinet. Despite the majority of them being republican donors.


You can search the political donations of public officials mentioned here and in other parts of state government by following the links below, and inserting their names.

Federal Election Commission 
http://www.fec.gov/finance/disclosure/norindsea.shtml

State Board of Elections
http://www.app.sboe.state.nc.us/webapps/cf_trans_search/

Jonathan Carlson

Jonathan is an investigative reporter and anchor with over a decade of experience. Jonathan has broken stories that have resulted in local and statewide change. Contact our Investigative Team anytime HERE. More>>

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