State News

Perdue targets DOT reform on first day

Posted January 12, 2009 6:57 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— In her first effort to make North Carolina government more transparent, Gov. Bev Perdue on Monday signed an executive order that prohibits members of the state Board of Transportation from voting on individual construction projects.

The panel of 19, all appointed by the governor, is now required to delegate its legal authority to approve billions of dollars in road projects to the secretary of the Department of Transportation.

"The perception has been that there's been too many decisions made in the back room by a small handful of people," Transportation Secretary Gene Conti said.

Some members of the board have been accused in recent years of voting on projects that could personally benefit them or their family. One of them was a major fundraiser for Perdue during the 2008 campaign. That member resigned.

The DOT will create within 60 days a new decision-making process on where to build roads based on data and the decisions of highway professionals.

Board members still will be required by state law to vote on some types of projects, including right of way land purchases and non-highway projects such as mass transit, said Jim Trogdon, DOT's new chief operating officer.

Lawmakers would have to change the law to remove board members from voting on these type of projects.

If they must vote, Perdue will require board members to promise at monthly meetings they had no personal interest in these other projects.

"I believe that this is going to change the DOT paradigm," Perdue said. "And I invite my friends in the General Assembly to be eager and happy about this change."