Local News

Tolson Named as New Director of NCDOT

Posted January 13, 1998 12:00 a.m. EST

— Big changes are in store for the North Carolina Department of Transportation. Tuesday, Governor Jim Hunt announced that Secretary of Commerce Norris Tolson will take the helm at NCDOT, replacing Garland Garrett, Jr.

Tolson has been charged by the governor to decentralize decision-making in the scandal-ridden department.

Hunt's decisions reflect some of the many changes in the works after months of controversy surrounding the department. There have been allegations that board members and administrators granted personal and political favors for some road projects. Hunt admits that

In addition to the appointment of Tolson, DOT board members will now be appointed, and those appointments will have to be approved by the legislature.

House Majority Leader Leo Daughtry beat Governor Hunt to the punch by holding an earlier press conference to announce his own proposed changes for DOT. He also wants to prohibit members from raising campaign funds, thereby taking politics out of the department. He also wants to reduce the size of the department.

Republican Party Chairman Sam Currin is more blunt about this situation. He says the department has been a disgrace, that the Hunt administration has handled it poorly, and that he wants outsiders to handle the investigation.

Currin plans to continue his push for an FBI investigation of the dealings. Daughtry plans to push his ideas through the General Assembly in upcoming sessions.

The problems within the DOT first surfaced late last year, and they built steam quickly. The headlines started in October. That's when board member Carroll Edwards resigned following reports he pushed for road projects that could benefit his family's business interests.

Two weeks after that, Odell Williamson resigned for similar reasons. So far, none of the resulting investigations has found any criminal activity, only ethical violations.

An outside consultant hired by the state auditor will evaluate the effectiveness of the board, starting in February.

andBrian Shrader