Raleigh, N.C. — Things got heated Thursday morning at a Senate Appropriations Committee meeting on the proposal to tear up the state's contract with Raleigh for the Dorothea Dix property.
Sergeants-at-arms and the committee chairman had to intervene in a confrontation between a lawmaker and a witness.
The witness was Jim Goodmon, who came to the committee to testify on behalf of Dix Visionaries, a group of local business and community leaders who've been raising money to develop the property as a park. Goodmon is president and Chief executive of Capitol Broadcasting Co., the parent company of WRAL-TV and WRAL.com.
Goodmon warned the committee in blunt terms that reneging on the Dix contract will brand the state as an unreliable partner for other business development.
"We have a lease, and you guys are backing out on the lease," Goodmon said. "What lease are we going to not do next?
"The notion that you can come in and take a lease, just say, 'Well, we – nope, we're not going to do it – is remarkable. I mean, you should hear yourselves saying that," he said. "There's no business person in this state that would agree with you with what you're doing.
"Why am I going to do a deal with you, if you just do a lease and just decide you don't like it?" he said. "Tell me why people are supposed to trust doing business with the state. You can't."
Goodmon said honoring the lease was a "matter of honor."
"You need to think about how we feel about what you're doing, and about how everybody else in the business community is going to feel about what you're doing," he said. "This doesn't make sense, and it is not honorable."
Goodmon's comments angered Senate Rules Committee Chairman Tom Apodaca, who was quick to respond.
"I feel like we've been somewhat intimidated by the press here today with the comments made by Capitol Broadcasting," Apodaca, R-Henderson, said hotly. "I will not be threatened at the General Assembly. That is wrong."
Goodmon returned to the public microphone to respond, but Apodaca cut him off, rising out of his committee seat, moving toward Goodmon as if to confront him.
"I felt threatened by you, sir, when you said your ownership of Capitol Broadcasting," Apodaca continued.
Sergeants-at-arms hurried to intervene if needed, and Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Harry Brown interrupted: "Tom... Tom."
Brown told Goodmon, "Please sit."
The committee went on to vote to approve the bill and adjourn.
Afterward, Goodmon said he wanted to speak with Apodaca after the meeting, but the senator left immediately.
"I'm here representing the Visionaries," Goodmon said, "to say that we do not believe they will have any credibility long-range if they just decide to void leases.
"We felt like that needed to be said, and I went after it pretty good," he said. "I'm sorry if somebody felt intimidated, but I said what I came here to say."
Apodaca didn't respond to a request to clarify his remarks.
This is Apodaca's second angry outburst of the session. Last month, he slammed the door on a House committee that made changes to his boards and commissions overhaul bill.