Dalton accuses McCrory of conflict while on city council

Democrat Walter Dalton says Pat McCrory tried to help his employer, Duke Energy, while he was a member of the Charlotte City Council.

Posted Updated

Mark Binker
RALEIGH, N.C.Updated 10/19/2012 with more response from the McCrory campaign. 


Although much of Tuesday's debate was recycled talking points and accusations, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, a Democrat, did open a new line of attack against Republican Pat McCrory, a former Charlotte mayor and city council member.

"Who are you really going to represent? Are you going to represent special interests? It's not the first time he's picked special interest if that's what's going on. The North Carolina Supreme Court, and Justice (I. Beverly) Lake, had a case and they said, when he was mayor pro tem, he collaborated with his employer, Duke Energy, to have the City of Charlotte condemn part of a family farm in order to enhance Duke's profit line. And then they said he filed a sworn affidavit and didn't tell the truth. He was looking after that special interest. He wasn't looking after the people; he certainly wasn't looking after the farm." 

McCrory said he was surprised by the accusation.

"This is the first I've heard of this. (It is) just amazing this attack on the private sector," McCrory said, adding that he was proud of his experience in the private sector. "The whole time I was mayor, never was there a question of ethical indiscretion." 

After the debate, McCrory said he was being attacked "an awful lot" but proud of his performance during the debate. 

Asked specifically about Dalton's accusation, McCrory said, "I have no idea what he's talking about ... Everything we did was transparent."

Dalton said after the debate, "I cannot believe he doesn't know about it. The City of Charlotte was one of the defendants."

The case in question is Charlotte v Cook and stemmed from a 1994 City Council decision. The state Supreme Court decided it in 1998.
The Court of Appeals first ruled that the city council exceeded its authority to condemn property when it voted to condemn property when it could have just acquired an easement. Interestingly, a majority of the state Supreme Court reversed that COTAP decision, finding in favor of the city. However, the court did not give McCrory a complete pass. From the opinion:
"The mayor pro tem of the City was an employee of Duke Power Company. The mayor was absent from the meeting at which the City Council voted to condemn the property, and the mayor pro tem presided over the meeting. The mayor pro tem voted to condemn a fee simple title. He filed an affidavit in which he said that if he had known Duke Power Company was involved in the matter, he would not have participated in the meeting. There was some evidence that he knew Duke was involved. The defendants say this makes the action by the Council arbitrary and capricious. We cannot so hold. An ethical problem involving the Council has to rise to a much higher level than this one for us to upset a decision by the Council."

Dalton mentioned Lake because he was a respected Republican state Supreme Court justice. Lake wrote a dissent in the case. Lake wrote:

"The record evidences multiple Duke Power internal e- mail messages and memoranda reflecting that Duke Power and the City collaborated to have the City acquire a fee simple title to the property in order that Duke Power could provide the power to the plant. These e-mail messages indicate that the mayor pro tempore of the City, an employee of Duke Power, as well as the project director had contact with Duke Power officials and discussed condemning a fee simple interest for the project. The mayor pro tempore chaired the 12 September 1994 City Council meeting where the subject of condemning a fee simple was discussed, and he voted in favor of a fee simple condemnation."

McCrory was Mayor Pro Tem of Charlotte in 1994 and was an employee of Duke Energy at the time. This is not a new accusation. The Institute for Southern Studies, a liberal leaning group, referenced the Cook case during the 2008 election. 

Update: The McCrory campaign has drafted {{a hrer="document-1""}}a detailed response to Dalton's accusation{{/a}} after both WRAL and the News & Observer ran stories about the slam.

Campaign spokesman Brian Nick acknowledged in a conversation that the Dalton camp was within its rights to point to that Supreme Court case. However, he said, more context was needed. Specifically, he points out: 

  • McCrory and a fellow council member who also worked for Duke at the time got a heads up on the project six months before the council vote.
  • Minutes from the council meeting don't appear to show that Duke is connected the project.
  • McCrory's vote was not needed in order to pass the annexation.
  • McCrory only presided over the meeting for a short time, and Mayor Richard Vinroot was in the room when a final vote was taken. 

The new information is favorable to McCrory. There's still a question of how the council could have voted on this annexation without knowing they were doing it on behalf of Duke. However, the new information does seem to blunt Dalton's attack somewhat. 

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