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Proposed SBI move controversial

Posted May 29
Updated June 3

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— The state Senate budget would move the agency responsible for investigating government corruption from the Department of Justice, overseen by the attorney general, to a department run by the governor.

The State Bureau of Investigation is one of the few statewide law enforcement agencies, such as the Highway Patrol and Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement, that doesn't already report directly to Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican.

Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover, told members of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday that the move would save money through bulk purchases, shared training and streamlined administration.

But Democrats criticized the move, saying that it would "politicize" the agency, putting it under the purview of the same executive branch it may be called upon to investigate.

"We want to have an agency independent of the governor investigating allegations of corruption in state government," said Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake. "It is a major restructuring of state government that affects public safety."

Stein argued that such a big move should have been considered outside the budget.

Attorney General Roy Cooper is a Democrat who will likely run for governor in 2016.

Goolsby said that conflict of interest fears are unfounded. Other states, he said, place their lead law enforcement agency under the governor's office.

"What we've tried to do is completely de-politicize the SBI," he said.

In addition to transferring the agency, the Senate budget would also change the way the SBI's director is appointed. The proposal calls for the governor to appoint the director to a 10-year term, subject to confirmation by the General Assembly. After the confirmation, the governor could not fire the director. 

"He would be totally independent," Goolsby said of a director appointed under such as scheme.

Cooper called arguments that moving the SBI to DPS would promote efficiency "bogus."

"It's clear that this is political," he said. "It's pretty clear that what they're trying to do is trade away the independence of the SBI and potentially protect themselves."

A similar plan to transfer the SBI faced opposition from law enforcement groups such as the North Carolina Sheriffs' Association and the Conference of District Attorneys. There's no indication those groups have changed their minds.

"The Sheriffs' Association prefer that it (the SBI) stay where it is," said Eddie Caldwell, the association's executive director. "A lot of the case they get called upon to investigate involve agencies of state government."

Also, he said, any meaningful cost savings would come from consolidating positions.

"The SBI doesn't need less personnel, it needs more," Caldwell said. 

McCrory also resisted the move last year, saying it was too big a move to make as he grappled with other problems. Asked about the potential for the move Thursday, McCrory said he was studying the issue but was less hostile to the possibility.

"What I’m looking for is what’s most efficient and effective, and that’s where I’m studying the plans right now," he said. "I’m going to be getting input from my Secretary of Public Safety Frank Perry, a former FBI official, who is heading up the policy now."

As for the potential for a conflict of interest, McCrory dismissed that idea.

"Based on my discussion with other governors, that’s not an issue I have with that," he said. "Frankly, there could be conflict of interest with the attorney general, who is an elected position. ... By the way, we have other public safety organizations under my responsibility now, and one thing I’ve done is, we keep the politics out of all investigations, whether they be criminal or otherwise."

11 Comments

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  • Centurian May 30, 8:20 p.m.

    So which agency investigates corruption or misdeeds in the Department of Justice / Attorney General's Offices?

  • less_govt_is_better_govt May 30, 12:59 p.m.

    Remember the wake DA is one of the few figures that can get the SBI to investigate anything. They pay no attention to common citizens. After the previous wake DA swept Bev's shenanigans way under the rug and some very shady conduct by the wake county sheriff under the rug as well, no wonder they want control.

    Had the previous DA done his job and called for the agency when appropriate the whole Easley thing may have been caught before it happened.

  • disgusted2010 May 30, 11:38 a.m.

    The general assembly has just played into Roy Cooper's hands. He has never cared about the SBI and sees it as an albatross around his neck. He is turning this into a win win for him. First he gets rid of a law enforcement agency he does not want and has never supported and second he can make political fodder out of the legislature's moving it.

  • cooldela1966 May 30, 7:48 a.m.

    Any change in state government is controversial. The staff might have to do something different and that is horrible. Better to let everyone relax in their cushy state job. Changing things might cause some work. Cannot have that.

  • early exit Roy May 29, 9:31 p.m.

    McCrory is taking a page out of the obama administration handbook. Everything goes through the AG holder and of course he says there isn't anything to investigate. So the dems in nc can't say anything unless they criticize the o administration for doing the same thing.

  • grnpnd7 May 29, 7:40 p.m.

    Absolutely not! Power tends to corrupt and absolutely power corrupts absolutely...

  • tatermommy52 May 29, 6:48 p.m.

    The only corruption that has been investigated has been by federal authorities.

  • thinkfirsttypelater May 29, 6:47 p.m.

    Please. No one would care except it is being done by "the evil republicans" in the legislature.... View More

    — Posted by Barely

    You are aware that it also allows future democratic governors to appoint their own hand-picked people as well, right? It's a terrible idea no matter who's in charge.

  • Jump1 May 29, 4:40 p.m.

    If it is not moved how could it be controlled to insure the right out come of the investigations.

  • Barely May 29, 12:58 p.m.

    Please. No one would care except it is being done by "the evil republicans" in the legislature. Quit with the feigned outrage.

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