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Lawmakers move ahead with pipeline investigation

GOP leaders said Wednesday they'll sign a contract with a private investigation firm to probe the Cooper administration's dealings on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, despite a letter from the administration promising records lawmakers requested by Dec. 20.

Posted Updated
N.C. Atlantic Coast Pipeline
By
Laura Leslie
, WRAL Capitol Bureau chief
RALEIGH, N.C. — Republican legislative leaders said Wednesday they will sign a contract with a private investigation firm to probe Gov. Roy Cooper's administration's dealings on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, despite a letter from the administration promising records lawmakers requested by Dec. 20.
A special joint oversight committee tasked with looking into the deal between Cooper and pipeline developers heard from Eagle Intel Services, a firm comprised of retired federal investigators Frank Brostrom, Tom Beers and Kevin Greene.

"Barring any unforeseen circumstances, a contract with Eagle Intel will be finalized in the coming days," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown.

At the start of the meeting, committee leaders blasted the Cooper Administration for sending a letter with its own records request, rather than complying with lawmakers' records request.

Brown, R-Onslow, told the committee lawmakers would comply with the governor's records request "in a timely manner – I'm sure a whole lot quicker than he's gotten our request, which is going on close to a year now.

"It's unfortunate," he added. "But I guess that's the game we're going to play."

Neither Brown nor House Chairman Dean Arp, R-Union, mentioned that the letter also included a date on which the requested records would be available until Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, specifically asked about the date.

McKissick said he had been told by representatives of the Governor's Office "in the past 24 hours" that a forthcoming letter to the committee would say that the requested records would be ready Dec. 20.

McKissick suggested that the panel should wait a week to see what the records show before signing a contract for an investigation that could cost tens of thousands of dollars, and he asked repeatedly but unsuccessfully what the cost of the investigation would be and where the funds would come from to pay for it.

"Nobody wants to think we're opening up the faucet of funds without knowing where this may lead us," he said. "I just think it could get expensive real quick."

Beers said the firm's rate is $100 per investigative hour. "There could be dozens of interviews," he said.

"If the governor had come forth with the information we'd asked for in the past year, this would cost us nothing," Brown told McKissick. "The governor is driving this train. He has made this choice for us, basically."

"The first time that we've gotten a date that we could expect those documents was this morning," added Sen. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth. "My first thought is, maybe we should have done this sooner. We'd probably be finished by now."

Cooper's office fired back, calling the legislative probe a politically motivated "sham" in a release to the media that included the letter sent to the committee.

The letter, signed by Cooper chief of staff Kristi Jones, requested records of communications between legislators and Republican party leaders, as well as internal communications she said would show that the hiring of the investigators was primarily intended to "score political points."

Brown said the contract with Eagle Intel would be made publicly available as soon as it's finalized.

"We're trying to be completely transparent," he said.

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