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Industrial Commission appointment announced

Gov. Pat McCrory made an appointment to the state Industrial Commission on Thursday. Andrew T. Heath, a Wilmington attorney who has defended cases brought before the commission.

Heath, if confirmed by the General Assembly, will replace Staci Meyer, a longtime, upper-level state worker who was close to Democratic former governors Bev Perdue and Mike Easley. Her term ends April 30.

Like several other important state panels, the six-member Industrial Commission is caught up in a GOP effort to streamline and replace all current members with their appointments. The General Assembly is also considering reducing their terms.

The commission hears cases involving injured workers. A series in The N&O last year showed the commission failed to take action against a large number of companies that failed to carry workers’ compensation insurance.

Cultural deputy gets job from Easley

On his last day at work, Gov. Mike Easley gave the acting head of the Department of Cultural Resources a new job.

Easley appointed Staci Meyer to the N.C. Industrial Commission. Meyer was the chief deputy and general counsel to the department who ran things when Secretary Libba Evans went on extended, unpaid leave.

Meyer spoke for the department in defense of two departmental trips to Europe that included first lady Mary Easley. 

Meyer told her staff of her appointment Monday. The commission oversees workers' compensation.

"I will strive to provide meaningful and effective service to the State through this appointment," Meyer wrote.

Meyer letter.pdf

Judy Easley gets a raise

Gov. Mike Easley's former sister in law is getting a pay raise and more job security.

Judy Easley, who was married to the governor's brother, went to work for the state Department of Cultural Resources a month after Easley was sworn in for his first term.

She worked as a top assistant to the head of the agency, keeping tabs on about 100 boards and commissions with a particular emphasis on working with the governor's office.

In March, her job classification was changed, making it more difficult to fire her. The change came with new duties and a 10 percent raise. She now makes $70,500.

The change was made without Governor Easley's knowledge, said Staci Meyer, acting secretary of the cultural resources department.

"I made a business decision," Meyer said in an interview. "She is such a valuable piece of what we do. Don't hold it against her because her name is 'Easley.' "

Judy Easley declined to comment. The governor questioned why the changes would produce criticism. (N&O)

Elected officials make more than appointees

Council of State members are paid more than Cabinet members.

Under 2008-09 budget, nine of the 10 statewide elected officials — including lieutenant governor, attorney general and state treasurer — are paid $123,198 a year. The governor is paid about 13 percent more, or $139,590.

Department heads appointed by the governor— such as the secretaries of Transportation and Correction — make a maximum of $120,363 under the current budget. The exception is the current secretary of Cultural Resources, Libba Evans.

Because she was on unpaid leave when the raises were instituted in July, her salary remains at the previous level of $117,142, said chief deputy secretary Staci Meyer. She said that discrepancy should be rectified when Evans returns or a new appointee takes over.

The budget wording appears to give some more leeway to the governor to set the pay of appointees, noting that the amounts listed are the "maximum annual salaries," while the Council of State positions are described as "the annual salaries."

Previously: Cabinet officials have bigger budgets than Council of State.

Evans reimburses state for liquor

N.C. Cultural Resources Secretary Libba Evans reimbursed the state last week $465 for booze bills from the trip she took with North Carolina's first lady Mary Easley to Russia and Estonia earlier this year.

State auditors caught the expense while reviewing the trip as part of a report that has yet to be released. Chief Deputy Secretary Staci Meyer said she and her staff missed the alcoholic beverage purchases because they made mistakes in translating two restaurant bills that were in Russian, Dan Kane reports.

"I took it off of some bills but not those two," Meyer said. "I missed it, and [Evans] assumed I had taken it off."

Evans did not review her bills when she returned from the trip, Meyer said. The standard practice was to turn them over to staff, who would then determine what Evans should reimburse.

Evans, who is on unpaid leave from the department attending to a personal matter, wrote a check to cover the expenses when Meyer told her of the auditors' findings.

The trip was intended to foster a relationship with museum officials in those two countries that might lead to a sharing of exhibits. But that trip and another Easley took to France for similar purposes in 2007 have drawn criticism for the tens of thousands of dollars in expenses paid for by taxpayers.

Meyer said Evans had previously paid for $647 in wine and champagne the entourage drank at a Russian restaurant. That puts the total alcohol bill at more than $1,100.

Evans was on leave during Russia trip

Libba Evans, head of the state cultural agency, has been on unpaid leave since May 1 — which means she wasn't on the clock when she participated in a trip to Russia and Estonia.

Evans was a member of a five-person cultural exchange trip in May to Russia and Estonia that cost taxpayers more than $56,000. The delegation also included first lady Mary Easley.

Evans, the secretary of the state Department of Cultural Resources, initiated the leave to take care of "personal business," said Staci Meyer, general counsel and chief deputy for the department.

"She initiated it and we discussed it and decided that was the appropriate thing to do as she dealt with some personal business," Meyer said.

Evans had already committed to participating in the trip and she was not paid as a state employee during the trip, Meyer said.

Meyer said she could not comment on the nature of Evans' personal business.

Evans salary when she went on leave is $117,142. The figure would increase upon her return because the legislature approved a pay raise.

Meyer has been running the department. She now makes $119,000.

E-mail panel ready to start work

Gov. Mike Easley has named his e-mail panel.

Easley announced today that the panel, which he has asked to review policies concerning the retention of e-mail messages under the state's public records law, will hold its first meeting Thursday morning.

Easley had previously announced that Franklin Freeman, one of his senior aides, will lead the panel and that Ferrel Guillory, director of the Program on Public Life at UNC-CH, will serve on the panel.

Other panel members announced today:

Ned Cline, former managing editor of the Greensboro News & Record.

DeWitt F. "Mac" McCarley, the city attorney for Charlotte.

Staci Meyer, chief deputy secretary for the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.

George Bakolia, the state's chief information officer.

Bryan Beatty, secretary of the N.C. Department of Crime Control and Public Safety.

David Lawrence, a professor at the UNC School of Government and an expert on public records laws, will serve as an advisor to the panel.

The first meeting will be at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in the Council of State meeting room on the 5th floor of the Administration Building at 16 W. Jones Street in Raleigh. Easley said meetings of the panel will be open to the public.

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