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Cooper To Review Use Of Slush Funds By House And Senate Leaders

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RALEIGH, N.C. — First, there was the revelation that House Speaker Jim Black used reserve funds to create a new state position for his ally, former Representative Michael Decker. Then, there was the realization that Black, along with former House Speaker Richard Morgan and Senate leader Marc Basnight, controlled millions of dollars listed as reserve funds for state agencies.

Now, state Attorney General Roy Cooper has announced that he will investigate the potential misuse of millions of tax dollars by House and Senate leaders who spend money on projects not covered in the budget that goes to the governor for enactment.

This money spent on other projects not included in the state budget is often called slush funds.

Cooper said these slush funds are "not good public policy. Most people would agree to that."

And it also may be illegal, Cooper added, or even unconstitutional.

So Cooper has agreed to join Les Merritt, the state auditor, in a thorough review of the use of these funds.

"The state auditor is going to establish the facts of what actually happened," Cooper said. "That information will be submitted to us. Then we will look at the issue as to whether what has been done is a violation of the constitution."

Last week, Black defended the way he and other leaders doled out funds. But he agreed to do it differently this year, by listing each project separately in the budget.

Critics said taxpayers have a right to know how their money is being spent and whether any laws have been broken.

"The leaders have a lot of questions to answer in regards to how the public's dollars have been used, and some would say abused and misused," said Representative John Rhodes (R-Mecklenburg).

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