RALEIGH – Like a mob boss instructing his henchmen to keep their traps shut, Gov. Roy Cooper is telling employees in his administration not to cooperate with investigators looking into the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) scandal.
Lawmakers have been rebuffed in their quest for answers about the genesis of a $58 million slush fund; that fund’s correlation to the approval of a key permit for the ACP; and recent revelations that Cooper and consigliere Ken Eudy appeared to also leverage permit approval to force Due Energy into agreements enriching Cooper’s solar pals.
So the lawmakers hired private investigators, two retired and decorated FBI agents, to get to the bottom of a situation that stinks with corruption and cronyism. But Cooper is instructing employees not to talk, and their excuses are very weak.
Even Cooper’s usual friends in the media don’t seem to be giving him a pass on this one.
“Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration has told rank-and-file employees not to speak with private investigators the General Assembly hired to investigate the administration’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline dealings.
Legislators co-chairing an oversight committee on the issue accused the administration Wednesday of “trying to grind this investigation to a halt.”
The two sides sparred through letters this month after investigators reached out to employees at the state Department of Environmental Quality without success.
Cooper Chief of Staff Kristi Jones said the attempted interviews were a waste of time and called the investigation an “extraordinary open-ended political fishing expedition” in a letter dated Jan. 17. She complained that “there are no protections for state employees from inappropriate questions and no rules preventing these private contractors from using underhanded or even illegal methods to interrogate.””
Of course there are protections for state employees against illegal interrogation methods – it’s called the LAW! Legislative committee members even offered for the general counsel of the agency in question, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), to sit in on the interviews.
In response to Jones’ letter to the lawmakers, those lawmakers write Cooper, saying:
They went on to blast Cooper and his chief of staff for impugning the character of the career law enforcement officers,both of which are highly decorated.
So, why would Cooper instruct his employees not to talk? His was supposed to be the administration of transparency, if you were to believe his campaign rhetoric. Instead they are bending over backwards to avoid providing any information regarding the apparent unethical, possibly illegal actions surrounding the ACP approval process.
Why? Perhaps because of a guilty conscience?
In their letter, the lawmakers assured Cooper that the investigation will continue:
The state legislature has a duty to provide oversight of government agencies on behalf of the citizens of the State. As such, if Cooper refuses to cooperate with that constitutional function, it is really the people of North Carolina he is refusing to answer to.
That’s a problem. There is a reason why, historically, the position of governor in North Carolina has been one of the weakest in the nation; because after decades under rule of Royal Governors, the people of North Carolina wanted to guard against excessive executive authority.
Now we have a governor that seems to have been negotiating $58 million side deal slush funds to be controlled by him, and coercing regulated utilities into lining the pockets of solar goons that donated to his campaign and pleaded for his help.
The constitutional reforms of the 1970s that expanded the powers of the governor certainly did not include an authority to conduct cronyism by abusing the power of the office. Unless Cooper and his staff are able to come clean and cooperate, we are left to assume he is hiding just that kind of untoward activity.
Read more on the background of the ACP scandal, and recent developments developments, here.