Top Democrat says McCrory must ‘come clean’ on prison contracts

Larry Hall

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – One of the state’s top Democratic lawmakers wants to know the details behind state prison maintenance contracts that are raising some questions.

According to The News & Observer, this matter is getting the attention of the FBI.

Next week, the Governmental Operations Committee will meet at the legislature and this case is expected to come up.

On Tuesday, House Minority Leader Larry Hall said people need answers on many levels and he called this a case of pay-to-play.

“It’s time for the governor to come clean, for him to come forward and let us clear this situation up,” Hall said.

Hall didn’t mince words when talking about the McCrory administration’s role in the extension of prison maintenance contracts with The Keith Corporation of Charlotte.

Documents show Gov. Pat McCrory pushed for a meeting last year with Chairman Graeme Keith and Department of Public Safety Secretary Frank Perry.

Keith is a McCrory campaign donor and a memo taken at the said at the meeting he has given a lot of money to candidates and now it was time for him to get something in return.
Jane Pinsky of the N.C. Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform said, “Our elected officials who can grant contracts unfortunately sometimes listen more to people who have given them political contributions than they do to the needs of the people of this state.”

WNCN obtained documents showing Perry disapproved of the contract extension. State Budget Director Lee Roberts said it would save the state money.

Ultimately, the contracts were extended. But the Governmental Operations Committee at the legislature didn’t see the deal. They are supposed to review contracts.

This, though, was a contract extension. For that reason, legislative staff members said, it did not need committee approval.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore removed language in the budget that would have required all contract extensions go to the General Assembly for review.
Spokesmen for both say, at the time, they had no knowledge of the contract extension with Keith or the FBI investigation.

When that particular issue comes up in committee next week, Hall says Berger and Moore should recuse themselves.

“You can take lipstick off a pig, [but] it’s still a pig.  It’s a contract,” Hall said.

Berger said Keith did contact him explaining how private contracts would save the state money. And Berger checked with the budget director before he and Moore took the provision out.

A spokesman for McCrory, Josh Ellis, said, “The smear campaign and lies by the left-wing Democrats continue in order to deflect attention away from an improving economy along with a government that’s more efficient. Rep. Hall’s comments are ones of desperation and destructive politics in order to regain power to implement past failed policies. It’s obvious his goal is to seek misleading stories and false headlines in an effort to fool the people of North Carolina.”

The spokeswomen for Berger and Moore also criticized Hall in a statement:

“Given Rep. Hall’s repeated failure to investigate crimes during Gov. Easley’s administration and scandals during Gov. Perdue’s administration, it’s easy to understand why he’d doubt lawmakers’ ability to provide legislative oversight.

“Unlike Rep. Hall, Sen. Berger and Speaker Moore take their oversight responsibilities seriously, so if Rep. Hall or any other member would prefer to focus on playing politics, then they should recuse themselves.”

Mike Easley and Bev Perdue, both Democrats, were the North Carolina governors before McCrory.

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