RALEIGH — The Council of State’s news for June included the governor continuing his “education emergency,” a future presidential endorsement, an opioid settlement, multiple agency promotions, summer meals for kids, and several audits finding issues in school districts.
The North Carolina Council of State (COS) is an administrative body of 10 elected officials who are heads of their departments. Council members include the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, commissioner of agriculture, commissioner of insurance, commissioner of labor, secretary of state, state auditor, state treasurer and superintendent of public instruction.
Gov. Roy Cooper’s “education emergency“ continued and around a third of the state’s K-12 districts and State Board of Education Chair Eric Davis, a Cooper appointee, joined the governor’s opposition to the General Assembly’s school choice bill. He also made two judicial appointments at the end of June, naming new judges to the Mecklenburg County District Court and N.C. Business Court.
Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson garnered a future endorsement from former President Donald Trump during a speech given at the NCGOP Convention on June 17. Trump said he would save a formal endorsement for another time but told Robinson from the stage, “You can count on it, Mark.” He referred to Robinson as “one of the great stars of the party, one of the great stars in politics.” Robinson returned the favor, endorsing Trump and the annual Faith and Freedom Coalition’s ‘Road to Victory’ gathering in Washington, D.C. on June 23.
Secretary of State Elaine F. Marshall and Robert M. DeWitt, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Charlotte field office, joined U.S. Attorney Dena J. King in announcing two Cornelius businessmen had pleaded guilty to wire fraud and operating a “large-scale” investment scheme that spanned from 2009-21. Marlin Hershey and Dana Bradley admitted to defrauding numerous victims who invested in two unregistered securities offerings promoted by the defendants: Performance Retire on Rentals, LLC (Performance Retire) and Distressed Lending Fund (DLF).
Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey presented the Order of the Long Leaf Pine to retiring Fire Chief Vence Harris of the Chapel Hill Fire Department during a special ceremony on June 16. Causey’s office also issued a reminder to citizens to check their insurance policies in the wake of several recent earthquakes that registered over 2.0 in the area just northwest of Asheville.
Attorney General Josh Stein announced a $102.5 million multistate settlement involving alleged monopolistic behavior by Indivior Inc. North Carolina’s share of the settlement funds comes to around $2.96 million. Indivior is known for its production of the opioid use treatment drug Suboxone. Stein also announced a man from Kernersville, Aljihad Shabazz, had pleaded guilty to his part in a scheme of defrauding the North Carolina Medicaid program of more than $4.7 million. In late June, Stein held a ‘public safety roundtable’ in Pittsboro with Chatham County Sheriff Mike Roberson and other elected officials.
State Superintendent Catherine Truitt highlighted $3 million in new financial assistance to aid new and preservice teachers in the state with the cost of taking state-required license exams. The Department of Public Instruction’s TeachNC initiative will provide reimbursements for licensing exam costs or study materials for licensing exams. Those costs can be steep, running on average around $450. Funding for the initiative will come from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund.
The N.C. Department of Public Instruction also announced free summer meals for K-12 kids ages 18 and under. To locate the free meals for kids, text “Food” to 304-304 for information in English or “COMIDA” to 304-304 for information in Spanish. There is also a meal site locator that can be accessed online at https://bit.ly/3MhnX1S. Local district websites should also have information as does a special website for summer meals: http://summermeals4nckids.org.
Several audits were published in June by the office of N.C. State Auditor Beth Wood. One report found that the Scotland County Public Schools district had made overpayments of more than $15,000 to a past superintendent. Another audit of Guilford County Public Schools found that at least three vehicles were being improperly used for personal travel. A third report found that the N.C. Department of Commerce did not properly monitor $128 million in federal funds related to job seeker programs.
Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler announced three employees had accepted new leadership roles in the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Joe French will serve as assistant commissioner of agricultural services as of July 1. French will replace Sandy Stewart, who is departing to become the president of Sandhills Community College. Promotions included Pam Hess, director of the Human Resources Division, and Patrick Jones, director of the Structural Pest Control and Pesticides Division.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Council of State will be held at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, August 1, 2023 in the DOT Board Room (#150) of the Transportation Building, 1 South Wilmington Street, Raleigh.