Local Politics

Black Surrenders Optometry License

Posted February 14, 2008 6:19 p.m. EST
Updated February 14, 2008 9:19 p.m. EST

— Disgraced former state House Speaker Jim Black on Thursday voluntarily surrendered his license to practice optometry while serving a federal prison sentence for political corruption.

Black, 72, pleaded guilty in federal court last July to taking more than $25,000 from a group of chiropractors while shepherding legislation favorable to the industry through the General Assembly. He is serving a 63-month sentence at a federal prison camp in Pennsylvania.

A Superior Court judge also fined Black $1 million in July after he agreed to accept punishment on charges of bribing former state Rep. Michael Decker in exchange for his support to keep Black as speaker in 2003. The deal helped Black retain a share of control in that year's evenly divided House.

Black, who operated an optometry practice in Charlotte and Matthews while serving in the House, previously had refused to surrender his license, prompting the State Board of Examiners in Optometry to pursue disciplinary action against him.

The board and Black reached a consent agreement Thursday that calls for Black to surrender his license while in prison and would allow him to seek reinstatement upon release.

"Putting the board through the ordeal of a hearing is not what I believe is in the best interest of my profession," Black said in a statement released by his attorney, Whit Powell.

The consent order states that Black was never the subject of a disciplinary hearing before the optometry board and that the surrender of his license wasn't related to his work with patients, Powell said.

"Dr. Black continues to have the highest amount of respect for his profession and believes that this consent order represents the least amount of time, expense and effort it would take to resolve the issue," Powell said in the statement.