RALEIGH — Records requests to the N.C. Department of Administration made by North State Journal show that repair costs for the Executive Mansion during Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s tenure have now surpassed over $2.5 million.
Julia Hegele, Communications Director for Cooper’s Department of Administration, responded with the dollar figure of $2,569,459 on Aug. 10 – a full 149 days after the request for information was made on Mar. 14 during “Sunshine Week.”
Sunshine Week is a national initiative established in 2005 by the American Society of News Editors, now called the News Leaders Association, to promote transparency in government operations
“Since January 1, 2017, the state has spent $2,569,459.00 on repairs needed for the safety, structural integrity and required maintenance of the Executive Residence, which serves as a working office, full-time residence, and public gathering and historic learning space,” Hegele wrote in an email to North State Journal. “This figure includes essential safety repairs as mentioned in response to your prior request on this subject.”
North State Journal asked for a line item list of the repairs and their cost but was denied access to those records due to “security concerns.”
“Due to security concerns, we typically do not share publicly repair records and recommendations for the Executive Residence,” wrote Hegele. “Providing specific line items and costs could identify potential deficiencies in the historic building as well as materials used for repairs, information that could be exploited to threaten the safety of the residence, its occupants and visitors.”
No such “security concerns” provision entered into the equation under the previous McCrory administration when repairs to the mansion were considered big news. In 2013, multiple media outlets obtained a detailed list and repairs totaling $230,000 for a bathroom and mold removal at the Executive Mansion. Outlets were also given access to a list of possible contractors doing work.
In response to the denial of the repair records, North State Journal has asked the N.C. Department of Administration (DOA) for a copy of the policy making such repairs a secret as well as any memos or emails directing such a change. As of the filing of this article, the DOA has not yet responded to that request.
In December 2020, North State Journal uncovered $2,123,955 million in repairs and refurbishments that had been made to the mansion since 2017. The DOA took 820 days, or well over two years, to finally respond to that records request.
DOA’s Director of Communications at that time was Nan Sanseverino. She, like Hegele, also denied North State Journal access to the repair records.
Severino’s response echoed that of Hegele’s, stating that “repair records and recommendations for the executive residence are not typically shared publicly due to concerns about security.”
“The records requested identify potential deficiencies in the 1800s-era building as well as specific materials used to make repairs, information that could be exploited to threaten the safety of the structure and its occupants,” wrote Sanseverino in her response. “We take these security concerns very seriously as do all who are responsible for the safety of the governor and his family who live at the residence as well as public visitors.”