Local Politics

Black Resignation May Offer State House a 'Clean Break'

Posted February 14, 2007
Updated February 15, 2007

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— In what could be just the first step in a dramatic fall from power, former North Carolina House Speaker Jim Black resigned his legislative seat on Wednesday and was expected to appear in federal court on Thursday.

Black's resignation came a day before he is expected to plead guilty to a federal corruption charge. He will plead guilty to one count of accepting illegal gratuities, a felony charge that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to Speaker Joe Hackney.

"It has been an honor and a privilege to serve in the North Carolina House of Representatives and represent the people of Mecklenburg County during the last 25 years," Black wrote in a letter to Hackney. "It is time for me to move forward with my life and attend to the health and welfare of my family."

Black was absent from the Legislative Building on Wednesday and couldn't be reached for comment.

Reading Clerk John Young read Black's four-paragraph resignation letter on the House floor. The letter referred to Black's pride in his "many accomplishments" as House speaker but made no mention of his legal troubles or the mounting criticism he has faced in recent months.

Hackney, D-Orange, and many House Democrats expressed regret at Black's departure and said they wanted to focus on his accomplishments as speaker.

"We knew Jim Black as a friend and we prefer to, most of us, to remember the good things that he did for North Carolina," Hackney said.

But Republicans said the resignation offers the House a chance to make a clean break from Black's tainted tenure.

"With this black mark on our institution, what do we do to change to fix things to restore public confidence and make sure nothing like this happens again?" said Rep. John Blust, R-Guilford.

Some lawmakers said the lesson learned from Black's demise is the danger of concentrated power and money.

"There's not as much temptation for power and greed if power and authority is diffused," said Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake.

Black was a prolific fundraiser, piling up scores of donations from individuals and special interests for both himself and other Democratic candidates. Observers said that was at the root of his downfall.

"This money chase is out of control," said Bob Hall, executive director of government watchdog group Democracy North Carolina.

Hall filed campaign finance complaints against Black with the State Board of Elections, which led to hearings a year ago into how Black raised money from optometrists, video poker operators and other groups.

"I'm afraid the demands on him to raise millions of dollars just crunched. It took a good person and turned him into a bad person, and a crime was committed," Hall said.

The executive committee of the Mecklenburg County Democrats will have to meet to name Black's replacement. Gov. Mike Easley will then officially appoint that person to serve the rest of Black's two-year term.

Black, 71, held the House speakership for a record eight years before announcing in December that he wouldn't seek a fifth two-year term. He narrowly won re-election in November over Republican challenger Hal Jordan, a political newcomer.

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  • El Doggo Feb 15, 2007


    It is amazing how many LAZY people throw their votes away by voting "straight party." The only excuse can be lazy or stupid. A vote is very important tool to own but so many take it for granted...

  • RedStatesManWatts Feb 14, 2007

    You know, I really thought that the election of 2006 would have corrected the problem in this state but many of you idiots in this state went right back and re-elected the same bunch of worthless democrats that you always have elected!? What is your problem? Do you have half a brain? This state is run by the worthless Democrat party and scandal after scandal has occurred. When will you get any sense at all? You should be ashamed for the way you have voted. Learn more about the candidates and realize what is going on please! Get a grip!
    Seeya Jim Black and good riddance!

  • sherwoodsmith Feb 14, 2007

    Middleclass bluecollar would have been taken out in handcuffs, booked, and required bond before going to federal court to plea.

  • ifcdirector Feb 14, 2007

    They are all a gang of crooks and thieves who have nothing better to do than think up ways to tax you into oblivion or complicate your life more than you could imagine to their benefit and your expense of money and freedoms. Go by there. Bet you money their cars are nicer than yours..........

  • MajorLeagueinfidel Feb 14, 2007

    Good riddance..if a lowly Govt. worker/ Police Officer, Corrections Officer, Court Clerks did what he did they would have never had the chance to resign...they would have been fired and thrown to the D.A for prosecution....he needs to be locked up...

  • RainierBeer Feb 14, 2007

    thankfully a blight on the nc political scene has been removed

  • Low Voltage Feb 14, 2007

    You are both right luke...

  • Low Voltage Feb 14, 2007

    Well said shep...

  • TechRescue Feb 14, 2007


    I seem to be missing something here... Are you saying what he did was fine, that the problem is the people who turned him in or prosecuted him? Is that really all you expect out of the people who represent you?

    Yes, he probably made some enemies with the way he ran the ship. However, at the end of the day he was crooked - and it cost him his job.

    As far as the lottery, I don't care: what I do care about is integrity. When you convince yourself that the end justifies the means, no matter what they are, you're flirting with anarchy.

  • Sherlockholmes Feb 14, 2007

    Revenge Is Sweet, Especially When Served Cold.
    You Can Bet Their Ashamed But They'll NEVER Admit It.
    >>A Republican and a Democrat were walking down the street when they came upon a homeless man. The Republican gave the homeless man his business card and told him to come to his office tomorrow and he would give him a job. He then took twenty dollars out of his pocket and gave it to him. The Democrat was very impressed. They continued walking and when they came upon another homeless man, The Democrat insisted it was his turn to help. So he reached into the Republican's pocket and took out twenty dollars. He walked into a nearby liquor store, spent five dollars on bottle of booze, put ten dollars in his own pocket for administrative fees and walked back out, He walked over to the homeless man, shook his hand and gave him the surplus five dollars and handed him a card with directions to the welfare office.