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Civitas president apologizes for post blasting McCrory administration

The president of the Civitas Institute is apologizing for a blog post he wrote last week and quickly deleted that accused Gov. Pat McCrory and his chief of staff of cronyism.

Francis De Luca posted his mea culpa Tuesday. "In trying to be vigilant against cronyism or even the appearance of cronyism— whether from the left or the right, liberals or conservatives, Democrats or Republicans — I made a mistake," he wrote, saying he skewed some facts in the original piece. "In talking about the event the Governor attended, I painted with too broad a brush by implying that an elected official’s appearance at an event involving organizations that lobby for state funds is tantamount to cronyism."

Civitas deletes story questioning cronyism in McCrory administration

The president of the Civitas Institute removed his story from the conservative-leaning think tank website last week that was critical about "cronyism" in Gov. Pat McCrory's administration and hit hard at his chief-of-staff.

Francis De Luca's story (cached by Google here) criticized the Republican governor for failing to change "the culture of cronyism and insider dealing in Raleigh" by pointing to his appearance at the Sept. 5 inaugural Minority Enterprise Development celebration. De Luca wrote that the event featured two speakers of a group tied to the coalition behind the "Moral Monday" protests and was hosted by the N.C. Women and Business Enterprise Coordinators Network.

The story noted that network is a client of Capitol Access, a lobbying firm led by Yolanda Stith, the wife of McCrory's chief of staff, Thomas Stith. It went further to say that it "may be that Thursday was not the first time that Ms. Stith’s clients benefited from a cooperative governor," highlighting how her clients budget cuts received only small budget cuts in McCrory's proposed budget.

Public Safety's Masso submitted resignation letter to governor's office instead of DPS

Dome notes that when Department of Public Safety Chief Operating Officer Edward “Sonny” Masso abruptly resigned on the same day as his boss – DPS Secretary Kieran Shanahan – he addressed his resignation letter to the governor’s office rather than to anyone in the public safety hierarchy.

Maybe that's because he was the No. 2 guy in DPS, and reporting to the No. 1 guy was no longer an option. Or did the governor's office play a bigger role? Dome is waiting for an explanation.

Masso’s letter, which the state finally released to The N&O on Wednesday (it was requested more than a week earlier), was addressed to Thomas Stith, the governor’s chief of staff. It simply says he was resigning effective the end of the month, and that day – July 25 – would be his last at work.

Both Masso’s and Shanahan’s departures on July 25 were unexpected, and have given rise to all sorts of speculation. Shanahan’s resignation letter was written to Gov. Pat McCrory, and outlined mostly financial reasons for leaving public office.

Governor throws ball, catches controversy

Gov. Pat McCrory decided Monday to throw the baseball around with one of his security guards, and even that became grist for controversy.

A Democratic group, called Progress NC, delivered 16,000 petitions to the governor's office on Monday criticizing the proposed cuts to education. The delegation, led by former Congressman Bob Etheridge and including a group of children, was told by an aide that he was busy in a meeting until 5 p.m.

But a short time after, one of the group took a picture of McCrory throwing the baseball around as his chief of staff, Thomas Stith looked on. The group said the photo was taken about 4:42 pm. The group soon distributed the picture with the headline:” Pat McCrory Throws Kids A Spit Ball. Governor Ducks Out of Capitol Office for A Game of Catch To Avoid Facing Children Petitioning Their Government.''

Morning Memo: McCrory closes Latino outreach office

North Carolina’s Latino advocates are voicing alarm following the governor’s decision to eliminate the state’s office for Latino affairs. The closing of the Office of Hispanic/Latino affairs was sudden and caught many by surprise. The move appears to have exacerbated the already tense relationship between Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and the Latino community, including criticism over a driver’s license plan for young immigrants.

Advocates says it sends a message that McCrory and Raleigh conservatives are less concerned with the needs of the Latino community. Paradoxically, it comes at a time when issues of deep concerns, like immigration, are at the political forefront and Republicans nationally are trying to appear more welcoming to Latinos.

***Thanks for reading the Good Friday edition of the Dome Morning Memo. Send tips and news to dome@newsobserver.com. More on the Latino office and other big headlines below.***

McCrory transition costs come in under budget, so far

Pat McCrory's transition costs total less than $200,000 so far, with the bulk covering salaries for his top aides. The figure is detailed in public records obtained by The News & Observer.

The Republican legislature gave him $660,000 for transition costs, double the amount of his Democratic predecessor. McCrory said he would try not to spend it all. Not all costs are accounted for yet, and the total doesn't include any expenses related to the inauguration.

Four key aides made the most money: Thomas Stith, Kelly Nicholson, Charles Duckett and Pattie Fleming, documents show. Stith made $10,894 a month in the transition, a total salary equal to about $131,000 a year. Nicholson took home $13,895 a month, or the equivalent of $166,740 a year. The total projected for transition salaries -- $192,000 --goes through Jan. 18, suggesting the final number may be less because some staffers are moving to state payrolls before then.

Morning Memo: McCrory cabinet pick faces more questions, legislature returns

SKVARLA FACES NEW QUESTIONS: Secretary John Skvarla's memo to staff at the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources this week is getting a good bit of attention and creating more questions than it answers. As reported here first, the agency's new mission statement includes this line: "environmental science is quite complex, comprised of many components, and most importantly, contains diversity of opinion." The memo also suggests the agency is more service organziation than state regulator. It raises big questions for the McCrory administration: Is climate change a scientific fact? What about sea level rise? And are human's responsible for global warming?

McCRORY DODGES GLOBAL WARMING QUESTION: As the DENR secretary questions the validity of science, the new Republican governor is sidestepping the global warming issue entirely. Pat McCrory told Travis Fain at the News & Record: "John (Skvarla) and I aren’t going to get caught up in the political semantics of either the left or the right on climate change or global warming. We believe in clean air, clean water and clean ground. ... As my father used to say ... we must walk the fine line between continuing our economic prosperity while also protecting the quality of life and the environment which brought may of us here. And that’s the fine line leadership must continue to walk.” Expect this question to re-emerge Wednesday.

McCrory begins naming administration members

Gov.-elect Pat McCrory named three senior members of administration Thursday, including a former U.S. Ambassador to head health and human services and a Raleigh businessman lead the environmental agency.

At a news conference, McCrory announced that Aldona Wos, a Greensboro physician and former U.S. Ambassador to Estonia,would head the Department and Health and Human Services, one of the largest agencies in state government.

Also named was John Skvarla, the CEO of Restoration Systems, a Raleigh-based company, that does environmental mitigation work, to be his new secretary of Environment and Natural Resources.

McCrory also named Thomas Stith, a former Durham City Councilman, who has headed his transition team, to serve as his chief of staff.

Art Pope and Co. anchor McCrory transition

Governor-Elect Pat McCrory's transition team includes conservative stalwart and political contributor Art Pope and several others who worked at Pope-funded organizations.

Political operatiave Jack Hawke is a former president of the John W. Pope Civitas Institute. He's part of the transition team leadership.

Transition director Thomas Stith is a former Civitas Institute vice president.

Lindsey Wakely worked at the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law, and is former legal counsel for Pope's company, Variety Wholesalers. She's the transition lawyer.

Pope is CEO and chairman of Variety Wholesalers and chairman and president of the John William Pope Foundation. He is a co-chairman overseeing transition operations.

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