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Rita Harris a McGuireWoods VP

Rita Harris, former legislative liaison for the state Department of Commerce, started a job this week at McGuireWoods Consulting as a vice president in the Raleigh office. She'll focus on infrastructure, economic development, incentives, and state government relations.

Harris was the Commerce liaison since 2008. Before that, she did the same job for the N.C. Ports Authority.

Harris was a budget adviser to former House Speaker Jim Black, a Charlotte Democrat who was convicted on corruption charges and spent about three years in federal prison.

From the 'Not Me' department

It's clear that in the middle of an employment dispute with its former executive director, members of the N.C. State Board of Cosmetic Art Examiners went to the legislature to get the rules changed.

The board successfully lobbied lawmakers to stick a sentence into an unrelated bill. The change would mean that the protections that Doug Van Essen was using to challenge his termination would no longer apply. In other words, if he wins his job back, he could get fired again without recourse.

What isn't as clear, is who led the charge for the board.

At a hearing over Van Essen's case, Board chairman Ray Mitchell Jr. said it was board member Rita Harris, a lobbyist for the Commerce Department and a licensed cosmetologist.

"Who on behalf of the board decided to approve presenting this amendment?" Van Essen's attorney, Faith Herndon, asked Mitchell at the hearing.

"I would say Rita Harris," Mitchell said.

Harris disagreed when reached by Dome.

"I don't know that I was the person who did that," said Harris. "I think Ray [Mitchell] was really in charge of doing that and I think he was at the meetings where that happened if I recall."

Harris hung up the phone in the middle of an interview, saying Mitchell needed to answer questions about the Van Essen case.

More after the jump.

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