Raleigh, N.C. — Working groups run by Governor-elect Pat McCrory's transition team have begun meeting with various departments throughout state government, although the membership and operation of these groups is somewhat ill-defined.
Chris Walker, communications director for the McCrory transition, said the groups are lead by members of the transition team policy staff and would include volunteers from both inside and outside government. Walker said this should not be a surprise given an interview McCrory gave to WRAL-TV anchor David Crabtree earlier this month.
"We're beginning the process now to put together a very talented team in each area of state government. But we're also bringing in people from the private sector to give us advice. We're learning, we're listening," McCrory said during that interview. "We're going to be reviewing the operations of each department ... and looking at ways we can improve those."
Walker said that policy staff members would be responsible for making formal reports to McCrory. But along the way they are asking for help from a number of people.
Asked for a list of each working group, Walker said there wasn't a formal membership roster.
"We're reaching out to the people across the state ... Republicans, Democrats, Independents, business leaders, folks in government," Walker said. "They're gathering information. There's no decision making authority."
And, Walker said, many had only been asked a question over the phone, while others may have come in for more formal consultations.
"A lot of these guys who are volunteers may not be interested in being a formal voice," Walker said. "To throw volunteers into the hinter lands of the public domain may not be what they're looking for either."
Open records and open meetings laws won't apply to McCrory until he takes the oath of office on Jan. 5.
During the campaign, McCrory was critical of Democratic rival Walter Dalton for "closed door" budget deals and for being part of a "good ol' boy" system in state government. Asked if having an undisclosed sphere of advisers might lead to ethics questions – why might someone volunteer or what they might get as a result of offering their services – Walker said no.
Walker clarified that many of the "working groups" weren't all the way set up and said to apply the name makes it sound more formal than they are.
"Is there a structure to it? Yes. Is there a list at any given time? That's not how it works," he said.
Everyone giving input to the transition team, Walker said, was made aware of a ethics statement McCrory has asked his formal staff to sign. And McCrory has made promises to nobody about jobs or future policy decisions.
"That's been the governor's strongest edict to all of us," Walker said. "I think you can take the governor-elect at his word. He has made no promises to anybody....Nobody who has been asked for advice has been promised anything in return."