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Lawmaker fires back at media while defending his nonprofits

Posted August 16, 2011
Updated August 17, 2011

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— A state lawmaker said Tuesday that he is the victim of a "hit piece" in a liberal-leaning publication over the way he runs two nonprofits.

NC Policy Watch ran a story two weeks ago about a two-month investigation of the East Carolina Development Co. and Piedmont Development Co., which are operated by Rep. Stephen LaRoque, R-Kinston. The two nonprofits essentially provide low-interest loans to small businesses in rural areas.

The investigation showed that LaRoque used some of the $8 million in federal grants to the nonprofits to lend money to close associates, his wife and two Republican lawmakers – Sen. Debbie Clary of Shelby and Rep. Mark Hilton of Conover.

The organization also questioned LaRoque's salary, the make-up of the nonprofits' boards of directors and the decision to fold the two agencies into a for-profit company run by LaRoque and his brother.

"It's clear it's been a political hit piece in response to my statements about one of their board members and his organization," LaRoque said in his first response to the article.

In May, LaRoque publicly called the state NAACP and president Rev. William Barber racist. Barber sits on the board of directors of the NC Justice Center, which publishes NC Policy Watch.

Reporter Sarah Ovaska denied that LaRoque's criticism of Barber prompted the investigation.

"Part of running for office (and) being in public office is taking hard questions," Ovaska said.

Rep. Stephen LaRoque LaRoque refutes charges in publication

LaRoque rebutted a number of allegations in the article during an hour-long news conference, including that his compensation was excessive, that board members were kept in the dark about the nonprofits' operations and that he stacked the boards with people who wouldn't question him.

There are no regulations that prohibit having relatives on a board of directors, he said, and the loans to Clary and Hilton were legitimate. He declined to go into detail about his salary, which is paid by LaRoque Management Group in Kinston.

"I'm not going to tell you. It's a private corporation. It's none of your business," he said.

"We actually question that structure," Ovaska said. "I think it's unusual to have a for-profit entity essentially running two nonprofits."

NC Policy Watch will continue to look LaRoque's dealings, she said.

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  • notmyrealnameeither Aug 23, 5:01 p.m.

    The Speaker of the House, Thom Tillis, just appointed Mr. Laroque's brother, Walter, to the board of the North Carolina Railroad:

    http://www.ncrr.com/PressReleases/NCRR%20News%20Release_Directors%20Appointed.pdf

    Tillis also said in a recent article that he would like to sell the Railroad, which has been operated by the state since the 1850's (and runs at a profit, mostly).

    (http://davidsonnews.net/2011/08/17/interview-speaker-tillis-on-the-budget-local-bills/)

  • bill0 Aug 18, 11:49 a.m.

    "If the people he made loans to fell under the sorts of businesses that the non-profits were formed to fund, then I see no problem. "

    Really? The non-profit was supposed to make low interest loans to small business startups. He gave the money to his friends to start businesses and paid his family members to oversee them.

    You don't see anything wrong with that? I have a feeling you might be singing a different story if this were a democrat.

  • BubbaDuke Aug 18, 10:33 a.m.

    If the people he made loans to fell under the sorts of businesses that the non-profits were formed to fund, then I see no problem. I see no problem being rude to the media - they are rude in the way they ask leading questions.

    If you take away Barber's political support, the guy would starve to death as a preacher. He talks for hours about nothing with substance. He makes allegations and stereotypes and does everything he accuses 'racists' of doing, only it's OK because he's black - thus he can't be racist.

    The other thing to remember is that non-profit does not necessarily mean an organization is a charity. Some insurance companies are non-profits, as are some debt-counseling services. In our culture, an accusation is perceived as guilt and a person's integrity is ruined whether a crime has been committed or not. The left has perfected the art of accusing others and deflecting their own guilt onto the innocent. I suspect anything the Left puts out as a lie-it usually is.

  • Deep Thought Aug 17, 6:05 p.m.

    Anybody that is surprised, raise your hand.

  • Bogie Aug 17, 4:06 p.m.

    The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity.

  • word636 Aug 17, 3:25 p.m.

    I saw the clip on the news last night. When asked how much he makes his comment was very rude...none of your business...that's what he said. He had an attitude with the audience and his brother and wife are on the committee. Classic guilt.

  • grimreaper Aug 17, 1:37 p.m.

    "The investigation showed that LaRoque used some of the $8 million in federal grants to the nonprofits to lend money to close associates, his wife and two Republican lawmakers – Sen. Debbie Clary of Shelby and Rep. Mark Hilton of Conover."

    Sorry Mr. Laroque but that is just crooked.

    "Reporter Sarah Ovaska denied that LaRoque's criticism of Barber prompted the investigation."

    Sorry but Ms. Ovaska but you are a liar...

  • elcid liked Ike Aug 17, 1:06 p.m.

    "If that were true carlos, there would not be a democrat left in government in NC, sorry."

    I love folks that characterize corruption as only being the other party's problem.

    This guy used federal funds to make low interest loans to his friends, family members and at least two fellow legislators.

    No matter what letter is after his name, this is a problem. A massive one.

    As I said, I'd like to see a full accounting.

  • gary13 Aug 17, 12:54 p.m.

    there is no room for corrupt politicians in this recession! says carlosdmd

    If that were true carlos, there would not be a democrat left in government in NC, sorry.

  • Plenty Coups Aug 17, 12:53 p.m.

    "surprise, another republican feeding at the government trough, but i bet he can tell you how it is bad for anyone else to be doing it!"

    That should be their mantra: "Give it to me but not anyone else."

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