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Independence of new SBI debated

Posted August 11

— Since it began in 1937, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation has been separate from the governor's administration. That changed last week.

A provision in the state budget that Gov. Pat McCrory signed last week moves the SBI out of the Department of Justice, which is overseen by Attorney General Roy Cooper, into the Department of Public Safety, a cabinet agency headed by a McCrory appointee. Backers of the change say the SBI will maintain its independence, but opponents are skeptical.

McCrory reiterated Monday that the shift will "take the politics out of the SBI."

"With the new independence created by this move, I will assure you – by law and because of my own ethics – you will not have interference with any type of an investigation from a political official, and this law guarantees just that," he said.

The governor has appointed B.W. Collier II, who most recently headed the state Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement, as acting director of the SBI. At his swearing-in Monday, he said he's looking forward to having the SBI as part of DPS.

"This day is indeed an historic day as we begin a new era of law enforcement in North Carolina," Collier said. "I feel confident that both agencies will complement each other and their efforts, and that our state will be a safer place because of this."

Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, said the SBI is now under the very administration it sometimes investigates.

"We have the SBI that's currently investigating the Department of Corrections, currently investigating the Highway Patrol, currently investigating the governor's former employer. There is a reason why the SBI is independent of a governor," said Stein, a former deputy attorney general.

Secretary of Public Safety Frank Perry said he will manage the SBI's budget and mission, but Collier will run the agency as he sees fit.

"No one can interfere with the casework of the SBI. This governor doesn't care to, nor do I," Perry said. "There are no jurisdictional changes to anything. We're simply called together to be more effective and productive and to enable each other to protect the citizens of this great state I call home."

Stein said the move doesn't save any money and no one at either agency asked for it. Police chiefs and sheriffs don't like it, either, he said.

"We have something that's worked," he said. "It's worked for political corruption. It's worked for local law enforcement. Why break it?"

Collier was an SBI agent for 26 years before taking the reins at ALE last year.

Under the budget, the governor's nominee for SBI director must be approved by state lawmakers. Collier can serve as acting director for up to a year before McCrory must nominate him or someone else as permanent director and lawmakers hold a confirmation vote.

27 Comments

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  • skeeter II Aug 14, 12:44 p.m.

    If this is allowed to stand, then North Carolina needs to setup an "Inspector General" department that would report to the legislature or better still would not report to anyone except the citizens of North Carolina. The Inspector General could be nominated by the Governor for a 8 year term and the Legislature would vote either to accept the person nominated or reject the nomination.

    This would remove the SBI from investigations of State Agencies.

  • ccsmith1902 Aug 14, 11:12 a.m.

    No, McCrory, the shift will reinforce the politics of the SBI in your favor.

  • Atheistinafoxhole Aug 13, 7:20 p.m.

    This is a dangerous turn. There is a reason why the AG is an elected official.

    Placing the investigative arm under the Governor's office rather than the Attorney General (highest ranking law officer in the state), it removes the wall that protects both the people of NC and the Governor's office from the appearance of (and possibly actual) political influence.

  • disgusted2010 Aug 13, 6:46 p.m.

    The SBI has never been independent nor free from political influence. It just changed from an anti law enforcement liberal politician's control to that of a clueless politician who has no personal agenda. That said those around and under him, not so much.

  • sixnitepkg Aug 13, 1:45 p.m.

    Ditto! I'm just waiting to see just how much he doesn't interfere......he must really think the citizens are dolts.
    scubagirl 2 Aug 13, 10:12 a.m.

    Be careful what you say! It won't stop with what is not investigated. It is a very short step from protection from investigation and prosecution for political cronies, to crooked investigations, harassment, prosecution and persecution of political opponents!

    Want a prime example of what's coming? Look at Germany in the early 1930's

  • scubagirl2 Aug 13, 10:12 a.m.

    "...I will assure you – by law and because of my own ethics..." Funniest thing I read all day!... View More

    — Posted by Mommyoftwo

    Ditto! I'm just waiting to see just how much he doesn't interfere......he must really think the citizens are dolts.

  • jrfergerson Aug 13, 9:45 a.m.

    Many say this is just another power grab by the Governor McCrory but I would not dare say Roy Cooper is smiling at this since he will be running for governor in the next election and the SBI will again be under his control IF he wins.

  • cottagebythesea5 Aug 13, 8:51 a.m.

    A sad day for North Carolina

  • heelhawk Aug 13, 8:12 a.m.

    "I will assure you – because of my own ethics – " McCrory........ What could possibly go wrong trusting in McCrory's ethics? It's not like he has a track record of cronyism, shady business dealings, environmental destruction, corporate favoritism, questionable alignments, ....... yeah, we'll be fine.

  • Rebelyell55 Aug 12, 5:30 p.m.

    Oh goody, another job creation move. Too bad it'll only be a few, and I forseee more tax dollars going to waste because this has no value to the state, none at all.

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