Letter requests removal of name from business leaders amicus in support of Leandro

Letter: Inclusion of Saidi "troubling" and "if not outright misrepresentation"

RALEIGH — A letter issued by the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce outlines that the law firm responsible for creating an amicus brief in support of the $785 million in funding in the Leandro case had added an individual without their consent.

Ray A. Starling, general counsel to the NC Chamber, wrote in the letter that “the inclusion of at least one of those individuals was wrong and without authorization,” and requests that the Court “ensure that its records reflect the deletion of that individual’s name and any suggestion that the NC Chamber or its officers have taken a position in this matter.”

The letter obtained by North State Journal shows multiple issues with the addition to the amicus filing of Sepi Asefnia, president & CEO of Sepi Engineering, Inc., such as “Ms. Saidi does not use the surname Asefnia.”

“Unfortunately, not only was the name used to reference Ms. Saidi inaccurate, so was her inclusion in the project in the first place.” Starling wrote.

“Equally as troubling is the inclusion of reference to Ms. Saidi’s role as chair of the NC Chamber,” Starling added. “The inclusion of this title seems calculated to create confusion for the Court, if not outright misrepresentation. The NC Chamber had expressly stated to those organizing the amici effort that the NC Chamber would not appear in the case.”

Starling includes excerpts of emails between Debra Derr, the NC Chamber’s education lobbyist, and Mary Ann Wolf and Tom Bradshaw of the NC Public School Forum stating the NC Chamber told Bradshaw they would not be participating in the support brief.

Following that email exchange, Saidi was contacted by a man “unknown” to her named Gerry Hancock claiming that Bradshaw said her name was to be added to the list of business leader supporters.

Hancock, an attorney and founder of Everett Gaskins Hancock, LLP, is also the co-founder of The Innovation Project, a secretive education nonprofit that North State Journal found has billed school district membership fees beginning in 2017 that to date total $2,048,800.

In May 2020, The Innovation Project created the “Solution Creators Action Network,” or TIP-SCAN, and has implied on its website that TIP-SCAN could be a source “incorporated” in the state’s plans with regard to the Leandro case.

“In conclusion, the NC Chamber, and Ms. Saidi respectfully request that any references to them be struck from the brief,” Stark wrote. “Both Ms. Saidi and the NC Chamber are capable of appearing before the Court when we desire to do so, and we have copied counsel to amici here in an attempt to avoid any future confusion.”

About A.P. Dillon 1132 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_