RALEIGH, N.C. — A senior adviser to North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue said Thursday that he regrets how changes to letters under a Department of Transportation executive's signature were handled but added that there was no attempt to deliberately mislead lawmakers.
Pryor Gibson told the Senate Rules Committee that he thought the letters sent to legislators last week about funding for two toll road projects were accurate when they were sent.
"In an attempt for me to do something for other (Senate) members, I made a, I made a mistake. I was going too fast to do the proper quality checks," he said.
Gibson and a Perdue staff attorney had made changes to a draft by DOT Chief Operating Officer Jim Trogdon, indicating that $28 million was needed next year for the proposed Mid-Currituck Bridge on the northern Outer Banks and $35 million for the Garden Parkway west of Charlotte.
DOT Deputy Secretary Susan Coward placed Trogdon's digital signature on the final letters. Trogdon later retracted their contents as they appeared to reverse his earlier stance that money wasn't immediately needed for either project.
"At the time I made the edits and at the time deputy secretary Coward approved them, she and I assumed that the edits that were being made were accurate, and we both believed that Mr. Trogdon had approved them," Gibson said. "Once again, I regret that error."
Trogdon told lawmakers Wednesday that Coward felt pressured to use the digital signature, but Gibson denied exerting any pressure on her.
"Ms. Coward said, 'You want my signature, Mr. Trogdon's signature that I can do or an electronic signature?' I said that it doesn't matter to me, but I expect Mr. Trogdon's signature is best," Gibson said.
Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Sen. Bill Rabon said he wasn't convinced Gibson's actions were a mistake.
"I think if I were in his shoes, I would be saying the same thing," said Rabon, R-Brunswick.
Rules Committee Chairman Sen. Tom Apodaca said the panel would meet next week to decide to do next in the investigation, noting that Gibson's and Trogdon's stories don't jibe.
"It's still a cloudy issue, and I don't think it was clarified, so I think that's the path we need to go down and try to find out why that letter was signed, who was made to sign it and the reasons behind it," said Apodaca, R-Henderson.