LATEST: NC Gov Cooper Cabinet Picks Already Cautioned For Potential Ethics Violations

It’s the kind of thing you should expect when you elect a proven-corrupt, incompetent governor, such as North Carolina’s bumbling mess, Roy Cooper.

Cooper took office after a skin-tight, dubious victory over Governor Pat McCrory, and immediately set to work, in attempts to bring down all the good McCrory and the Republican-led state legislature put in place.


He has flirted with the expansion of Medicaid in the state, against state law.

He has recently proposed a “compromise” for repeal of the controversial bathroom law, HB2, that basically was no compromise, at all. At least, not one that people who don’t want their children exposed to the opposite sex in public bathrooms could be comfortable with.

Now, it appears that Cooper, himself, hasn’t just danced close to the edge of an ethical and legal abyss, but so are those he brought with him to Raleigh.

At least four of his cabinet nominees have been cautioned that they risk running afoul of ethics laws.


Dr. Mandy Cohen, Anthony Copeland, Susi Hamilton and Michael Regan, who have been tapped to head the departments of Health and Human Services, Commerce, Natural and Cultural Resources and Environmental Quality, respectively, all received letters from North Carolina’s State Ethics Commission saying reviewers found the “potential for a conflict of interest” due either to properties they own or certain business relationships.

“Governor Cooper has appointed a diverse cabinet with deep experience in their respective fields,” Cooper spokesman Ford Porter said. “These leaders have publicly reported their economic interests in accordance with state law, and Governor Cooper is confident that they will serve North Carolina with distinction.”

Senators say the items highlighted by the Ethics Commission are the kind of potential problems they would like to ask about during planned confirmation hearings, which Cooper has sued to halt.

“That’s the sort of thing I think it’s fair for us to inquire about,” Senate President Pro Tem

Phil Berger said Thursday.

Berger, R-Rockingham, and other senators have said they want to reschedule cabinet confirmation hearings in light of a recent court order removing an injunction on the process. Cooper and his administration say that, while a three-judge panel has refused to grant a preliminary injunction to the law, that same panel has made clear confirmation hearings should go forward.


Of course, Cooper is spitting and kicking at the thought of his nominees going through a confirmation process, calling it a “power grab,” but Republican lawmakers point out that it is a nonpartisan effort, crafted to curb any unforeseen conflicts arising that would disrupt the government.

Three of Cooper’s cabinet secretaries – the heads of Administration, Military and Veterans Affairs and Public Safety – were found to have no potential conflicts, while Transportation Secretary Jim Trogden has not yet received his Ethics Commission review, according to the Governor’s Office. Nominees to lead the Revenue and Information Technology departments haven’t been named yet.

Senate Rules Chairman Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, said that senators have been “given the green light” to push ahead with confirmation of Cooper’s nominees. Cooper’s lawyers argue that the governor has until May to give lawmakers official notice of his appointments.

You would think this willingness to move forward would be welcomed by Cooper.

“As the court found on Monday, the Senate cannot begin their ‘advise and consent’ process until Governor Cooper formally submits his cabinet to the legislature. By statute, the governor has until May 15 to do so,” Porter said.

Rabon says that notion defies common sense.

“If you put your hand on the Bible and you’re sworn in, you’re getting a paycheck and the two best newspapers in the area have you on the front page, then you’re probably who we think you are,” Rabon said.


Rabon makes a solid point. Cooper has nothing to lose by letting the confirmation hearings move forward with those picks he has ready to go.

Cooper has taken the warnings from the Ethics Commission as some sort of an indictment against his administration, so he’s reacting defensively.

The reality is, as expressed by experts in North Carolina politics, the back and forth, the warnings and evaluations are common. There has been nothing found in any of those Cabinet picks that would prevent them from stepping into their roles. All that is expected of them is that they are cognizant of the potential ethical snags and take steps to avoid them.

The statements coming from the Ethics Commission are based on things like statements of economic interest that are filed ahead of taking office, land ownership, outside business activities, the business relationships of spouses, and any other financial dealings the nominee may have.

For example, Hamilton noted on her form that her husband, Stephen, works for Wilmington’s parks department. The commission cited that fact in its letter evaluating Hamilton. By and large, the conflicts cited by the commission include experience that would equip people for their posts:

  • Cohen’s husband is a partner in a law firm with a health care practice area, although he primarily handles matters related to federal health policy.
  • Copeland is a partner with the Williams Mullen law firm, where his practice focused on economic development.
  • Hamilton is a board member for the Cucalorus Film Festival, which has received grants from the North Carolina Arts Council, which is in turn overseen by the Department of Cultural and Natural Resources.
  • Regan headed his own environmental consulting firm and was a vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund, a nonprofit that lobbies for environmental preservation.

So the potential is there. Asking that the nominees go through a basic confirmation process, in the interest of propriety should be welcomed by Cooper and his Democrat cohorts.

It should be, but given that they went to the lengths they went to, in their efforts to rip the governorship from Republican hands, and then finding a brick wall, by way of the North Carolina General Assembly waiting on them, I guess pouting is expected as their default on any commonsense moves by Republicans.





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