Whether by phone, letter, e-mail or text, two of the most feared phrases in the state of North Carolina sometimes originate from 215 South McDowell Street and begin something like this... “It has come to our attention” or, “I’d like to ask you about.”
Anyone who spends a great deal of time fishing knows the difference between a “J hook” and a “circle hook.” While their ultimate use is the same; to catch a fish, they are in many ways unique. “J hooks” have been around for decades and are easily swallowed by the hungry, stupid, curious and undisciplined. In many instances, removal of a swallowed hook renders a fish unfit for consumption. With a “circle hook”, the chances of total ingestion are less frequent. The characteristics of those seeking it however, remain the same.
“Astonishment” is a thing of the past when it comes to the daily soap opera of North Carolina state government, affiliated organizations and politicians. “Unbelievable”; not so much. Defined as “too dubious or improbable to be believed”, recent actions show that it remains in vogue.
Dana Cope and his State Employees Association of North Carolina are now officially a thing of the past. Having been outed by the News & Observer in what can only be described as another fleecing of North Carolina state employees, remarkable
response(s) from some of the members of SEANC’s executive committee, and in defense of Cope, show that dirt may be more contaminated than first thought. And only by concerns and revelations of former executive committee members has this mess been revealed. Then it gets interesting.
In yesterday’s edition of the News & Observer, John Drescher wrote about a meeting. In attendance were Cope, SEANC lawyer Tom Harris, two other “top level” SEANC employees, Drescher, Steve Riley and Joseph Neff; who has relentlessly reported on this matter for weeks. What is truly unbelievable is that on February 3, 2015, Cope and his band of deniers sparingly went to the newspaper offices to request that the News & Observer not publish a story on SEANC spending.
As told by Drescher in this extraordinary piece, it appears the SEANC’s aloof team and their explanations went to hell in a hand basket; and at warp speed.
In separate interviews, three former members of SEANC’s executive committee questioned Cope’s SEANC spending. The allegations would no doubt be of interest to the many state employees throughout the region; they could read the story and decide for themselves if the spending was proper. We published our story a few days after meeting with Cope. Our story said SEANC, without getting bids, paid $109,000 to a landscaping firm that also had done extensive work at Cope’s home. Especially troubling was that one check for nearly $19,000 was justified by a phony invoice and was made out to a defunct computer company called Perspective Concepts in Washington, D.C. That check was cashed by a company with a similar name – Perspective Landscape Concepts, the firm that worked at Cope’s house. Harris, the lawyer, said at The N&O that there was an explanation for the phony invoice but he would not discuss it because it was a personnel matter.
An “explanation for a phony invoice”? Some bizarre aspects of this whole charade and while on the backs of some fifty-five thousand state workers shows a redundancy in stupidity. That Cope would not be eventually caught or, “explanations” might be sufficient. The fact that these misfits with their lawyer in tow, decided to go to the News and Observer and plead for mercy, is beyond any scope of intelligence.
While future meetings of the SEANC are expected, it is highly doubtful (but not impossible) that they will be held at the News & Observer, with Drescher, or the paper’s reporters. Members of the SEANC will attempt to rectify a situation which is akin to putting out a house fire already smoldering on the ground. With some sense of certainty, there are more fish to be caught.