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Personnel file: Holmes shifts to new role at state auditor's office

The changing of the guard in Raleigh will mean a number of personnel shifts in state government. One began before the election.

Bill Holmes left House Democratic leader Joe Hackney's office Nov. 1 for a new post as spokesman for State Auditor Beth Wood. The auditor's office current spokesman Dennis Patterson, a 12-year state employee veteran, is retiring at the end of the year. Patterson and Holmes are former Associated Press reporters.

Auditor disputes employees claims

The state auditor's office says an employee asked for a voluntary layoff, changed his mind and then filed suit because he fears a layoff.

Attorneys representing the auditor filed a motion Thursday to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Darryl Black, an assistant state auditor who says his bosses have targeted him because his is a Republican. 

Black claimed in his suit that his bosses approached him about a buyout and mentioned that involuntary layoffs were impending, which Black took to mean that his days at the office were numbered. A spokesman for Auditor Beth Wood said the office has a different interpretation how talk started about the buyout, known in state government as a Reduction in Force or RIF.

"This fella came to us and asked for a voluntary RIF, which involves us paying severance pay among other things and health benefits and we agreed to that and go back to him with the paperwork, and all of a sudden he's changed his mind," said Dennis Patterson, a spokesman for the office. "And now we're being sued for trying to accommodate him."

Patterson said that under Republican Auditor Les Merritt, Black had quit his job and returned a day later. He was hired back with the understanding that he would find a new job.

"We inherited this fellow," Patterson said. "Party registration is simply not a factor. It's competence."

Black's attorney, Michael C. Byrne of Raleigh, said "They are free to characterize their actions how they wish and we look forward to seeing how they are characterized under oath in a court of law."

More after the jump.

Rand's specter halted Easley audit

It appears that the influence of state Sen. Tony Rand, a Fayetteville Democrat, helped keep secret an audit dealing with former first lady Mary Easley's salary at N.C. State University.

The salary audit has never been released by new state auditor Beth Wood, a Democrat. In an interview, she said the investigative audit raised questions about whether the first lady's $170,000 per year salary at NCSU was justified — but said NCSU officials made detailed counter arguments that would have led to a "he said/she said" audit.

But it turns out that Rand's involvement in an earlier audit — one that dealt with questionable overseas travel by Mary Easley — also played a role, J. Andrew Curliss reports. The Easleys had hired Rand, who is a lawyer and the powerful majority leader in the state Senate, to represent them. The move generated lots of talk because, for one, Rand has power over the state auditor's budget.

More after the jump.

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