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UNC system act on McCrory's campus substance abuse challenge

Apparently Gov. Pat McCrory was serious a few months ago when he challenged UNC system leaders to do something about substance abuse on campus.

On Friday, Board of Governors Vice Chairman Frank Grainger briefed the board on a series of meetings between the governor's staff and UNC leaders. On Sept. 4, Grainger and UNC President Tom Ross met with McCrory and his staff, as well as Frank Perry, secretary of Public Safety, and Jim Gardner, chairman of the ABC Commission. The sheriffs of Anson and Guilford counties also attended, Grainger said.

"The bottom line is that it appears that drugs are becoming more and more prevalent on our campuses," Grainger said.

Child-welfare advocates concerned about adult/youth justice divisions merging

There is concern by some child-welfare advocates over the decision to merge the adult and juvenile prison sections of the state Department of Public Safety.

The merger was announced Tuesday as part of the consolidation of related state agencies that has been underway since 2011, in addition to more recent directives to find additional savings.

Rob Thompson, executive director of the Covenant with North Carolina’s Children, said Wednesday the merger raises questions about how well the state can focus on teenagers.

“Preventing juvenile crime and rehabilitating youthful offenders demand a different model than adult corrections,” Thompson said in a statement. “We are concerned that the new structure will lead to a decreased emphasis on youth-focused programming.”

Morning Memo: Dems eager to replace Kinnaird; GOP's barbs in Senate fight

FOUR CANDIDATES SEEKING KINNAIRD SENATE SEAT: State Rep. Valerie Foushee and three others announced Wednesday their intent to seek state Sen. Ellie Kinnaird’s District 23 seat. The other candidates for Kinnaird’s seat that emerged Wednesday were retiring Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton; author and educator Amy Tiemann, and former Alamance County Rep. Alice Bordsen. Read more on the candidates here.

TODAY IN POLITICS: The country's former top military officer and the head of an Internet giant are the main attractions at a gathering of North Carolina business executives that will draw Gov. Pat McCrory. The CEO Forum is scheduled for Thursday at North Ridge Country Club in Raleigh. Former U.S. Secretary of State and retired Gen. Colin Powell is speaking along with Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers. McCrory will attend the event at 8 a.m.

***More North Carolina political news from the U.S. Senate race below in the Dome Morning Memo. Send news and tips to capitol@newsobserver.com.***

Perry named new Secretary of Department of Public Safety

Frank L. Perry will be the new Secretary of the Department of Public Safety.

Perry has been serving as interim secretary since Kieran Shanahan stepped down abruptly last month.

In making the announcement, Gov. Pat McCrory said: "Frank Perry has dedicated his life to public safety, primarily through his distinguished FBI career,” said Governor McCrory. "He brings a wealth of real-world experience to the helm of DPS in addition to his dedication to public service.”

Former FBI agent becomes interim Public Safety secretary

Former FBI agent Frank L. Perry will take charge of the state Department of Public Safety until a permanent leader is chosen.

Gov. Pat McCrory’s office announced Friday that Perry will serve as interim secretary, a week after the sudden departure of Raleigh lawyer and GOP fundraiser Kieran Shanahan.

Shanahan said he needed to leave office after only seven months to resume his various business enterprises, which includes a law firm, a lobbying firm and real estate ventures. He also said he wanted to be able to devote time to help his wife, who will be promoted to admiral in the U.S. Navy Reserves.

Perry has been serving under Shanahan as the department’s commissioner of the Division of Law Enforcement, and before that was interim chief operating officer.

Edward “Sonny” Masso, who was the chief operating officer, also abruptly resigned last week without a public explanation.

The governor’s office also announced Friday that Jeff Epstein will serve as interim secretary for the Department of Revenue while Secretary Lyons Gray takes a medical leave for the month. Epstein is the chief operating officer for the department.

Former ALE director contests firing: calls it political

Former state Alcohol Law Enforcement Director John Ledford is contest his firing, contending it was politically motivated and unlawful, even though it was done amid the typical replacement of agency officials whenever there is a change in administrations.

Ledford, a longtime Democratic-connected figure, stepped down from his position as director in advance of the new Republican administration earlier this year. He reassigned himself to the position of an agent stationed in Asheville, where he is from.

New Department of Public Safety Commissioner of Law Enforcement Frank Perry dismissed him, saying Ledford had no authority to take that position, nor to give himself a salary far in excess of what the job pays – nearly $66,000. The department contends Ledford was not a career state employee, and so cannot challenge his dismissal.

Ledford, in a filing with the state Office of Administrative Hearings, contends he was a career employee because he had the job for the preceding two years, and had no disciplinary problems.

DPS says ex-ALE director Ledford's move was inappropriate

The state Department of Public Safety on Monday disclosed it had "ethical and legal concerns" that prompted it to fire former Alcohol Law Enforcement Director John Ledford after he demoted himself to agent.

Ledford had no legal authority to transfer a vacant position in Wilmington to Asheville, where he is from, and then essentially assign himself to that spot at an "advanced competency" salary level far in excess of what the position pays, according to a letter to Ledford by DPS Commissioner Frank Perry.

Retired admiral gets top public safety post

Retired Rear Admiral Edward “Sonny'' Masso has been named the new chief operating officer for the Department of Public Safety.

Masso served 32 years in the Navy and Navy Reserve including assignments as commander of the Navy Personnel Command/ deputy chief of Navy Personnel; deputy commander, Naval Surface Force U.S. Atlantic Fleet, vice commander Naval Surface Forces Command; and assistant deputy chief of Naval Operations (Manpower, Personnel, Training and Education.)

More recently, Masso has served as a senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies in Washington D.C.

Shanahan picks ex-FBI agent to help run Dpt. of Public Safety

New state Department of Public Safety Secretary Kieran Shanahan has named former FBI agent Frank Perry to be his interim chief operating officer. He replaces COO Mikael Gross, who was dismissed on Monday.

UPDATED

Merritt starts foundation to fight corruption

Former state auditor Les Merritt has formed a nonprofit foundation dedicated to rooting out public corruption.

The Foundation for Ethics in Public Service opened its doors in May and exists to help expose corruption across the nation, Merritt said. Unlike his time as auditor, Merritt won't have the advantage of being able to order agencies to cooperate. He said the foundation will rely on the same tactics and methods used by investigative journalists — good tips and public records.

"We need more watchdogs you just can't get too many out there," Merritt said.

Merritt, a Republican, lost his seat last year to Democrat Beth Wood.

The foundation will rely on anonymous tips for many of its investigations. Others may come from journalists, who because of staff cuts, don't have the time to pursue stories in detail. The foundation can check things out and turn the information over to reporters, he said.

Frank Perry, a retired FBI agent and former investigations chief under Merritt will direct investigations for the foundation.

Merritt said the foundation has a funding pledge from the John William Pope Foundation, which is directed by conservative patron and former lawmaker Art Pope.

Merritt says that his organization will be nonpartisan. Merritt said he does not plan to run for auditor again.

"I honestly believe this can be more worthwhile," he said. "I don't ever plan on running agin. It's certainly not helping me get set up that way. This can be a whole lot more fun."

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