McCrory lashes out over criticism of mistake on his financial disclosure
Posted August 14, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — Gov. Pat McCrory is striking back at The News & Observer newspaper for its report on his disclosure of his ownership and sale of Duke Energy stock.
After a speech in Durham Thursday morning, McCrory told a reporter for the paper that its front-page story “mischaracterized a misinterpretation of a very convoluted form.”
Elected officials and members of state boards and commissions are required annually to file disclosures of their financial interests for the previous tax year by April 15. The State Ethics Commission form states on page 2 that the information disclosed should be current as of Dec. 31 of the preceding year.
On his Statement of Economic Interest for 2013, McCrory did not report that he owned more than $10,000 worth of shares in Duke, his long-time employer, even though he still owned them as of Dec. 31, 2013.
McCrory had told reporters in the past that he owned “some” stock in Duke, but he declined to say how much. However, he said he sold the stock after the Dan River coal ash spill, which occurred Feb. 2 at a retired Duke power plant.
WRAL News reported the stock sale in May. His office refused at that time to say exactly how much the shares were worth or when the sale occurred.
McCrory oversees the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the agency that regulates the utility’s coal ash ponds. He’s been blasted by critics who’ve accused him of a conflict of interest, given his 29 year career at Duke and his stock in it.
The utility has said it will pay “reasonable” clean-up costs for the Dan River spill, but Chief Executive Lynn Good has said customers, not shareholders, will likely have to pay for any larger plan to clean up its 32 other coal ash ponds around the state.
McCrory has steadfastly refused to take a position on whether shareholders or customers should pay for it, saying that decision should be left up to the state Utilities Commission.
The governor said the omission on his financial disclosure was due to a simple error, saying that his legal counsel, Bob Stephens, misinterpreted the directions on the lengthy form. He said the information on the form was current and complete as of the day he filed it, April 15, not as of Dec. 31, 2013, as the form directs.
“There were so many media reports of me being requested to sell the energy stock to clear any possible conflicts of interest. I actually did it, and I informed the public I did it, and now of all things I’m being criticized for doing what the public asked me to do,” McCrory said. “You guys are amazing.”
McCrory said he sold both his Duke stock and another energy stock, Spectra, “right before we filed the report.”
“Apparently, we should have kept it on the form, which would have actually misled people. It would have looked like I owned the stock when in fact I divested from it,” he said. “We were trying to tell the truth, and in fact, we did tell the truth about when and what my 401(k) investments held.
“By the way, we did notify the media when I did sell the stock, and the media reported this," he continued. "In fact, we even directed the media to our form at this point in time, and I’m sorry The News & Observer missed it in addition to me."
McCrory said his attorney feels “terrible” about the error and called the newspaper’s account of it “misleading.”
“To see it as a front-page headline because we misinterpreted the directions of the report, which are rather confusing, and even the ethics commission has told us this is a common mistake. We apologize for that mistake. But if anything, we were even more transparent with the public than what the form requires,” McCrory said.
“You can make that a front-page headline, but I hope you don’t continue to mislead the intent of what we were attempting to do,” he said. “The correction’s already been made. I made the correction (Wednesday) afternoon after we being notified that we misinterpreted the filling out of the form in an effort to be more transparent, not less transparent.”