Latest Entries »

screen-shot-2020-03-20-at-9.23.40-am-1024x528-1(Carolina Journal) A group of lawmakers who oversee program oversight is working on a draft bill designed to promote transparency and objectivity as they relate to penalties issued by the N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Commission. The draft bill comes after a March report from the General Assembly’s Program Evaluation Division. The PED says its report is a response to changes to the administrative penalty structure and the severity of penalties handed down by N.C. ABC.

The PED found that administrative penalties aren’t “proportional, lacking policies, procedures, and guidelines that would limit variance and subjectivity.”

“The General Assembly should consider requiring the Commission to set guidelines that ensure penalties are proportional to offenses, increase transparency for permittees, and establish performance management criteria.”

Read the full report HERE>

hannah_randall_manna_asheville_2020-768x554-1(Ashevegas)  The main floor of Manna FoodBank’s warehouse in Asheville is a beehive of activity as scores of staff and volunteers pack, load and wrap food for distribution. Boxes, pallets, and forklifts still abound, but the vibe has changed.

In her office, Manna CEO Hannah Randall shifts in her chair. The data points she sees on her computer screen are staggering. The pandemic has amplified the scope of poverty and hunger in Western North Carolina like nothing before.

The data is also forcing a stark realization that both sourcing and logistics must be reimagined on the fly. Randall estimates that to meet the spike in demand for Asheville and Buncombe County in coming months, Manna will need to distribute at least 508,968 pounds of food each month representing more than 424,140 meals.

Read the full report HERE>

o7tioye7qvbchccunk2v4p6m6y(Raleigh News & Observer) A dozen people walked through downtown Raleigh Saturday afternoon with weapons and flags on the first full day of North Carolina’s Phase 1 — when some coronavirus-related restrictions have been loosened. The protesters are seen in photos ordering sandwiches from Subway on Fayetteville Street. One is carrying an AT4 rocket launcher, with a sticker saying “inert” on it, slung over his back. The man also has two pistols in holsters on his waist.

Another person, who is wearing a scarf face covering, carries a pump-action shotgun. In another photo, a man is sitting with a shotgun propped on a Subway bench while he has a sandwich in his hand. He is wearing a face covering. And a fourth photo shows a man taking a selfie outside the shop while holding a .50-caliber wooden prop machine gun.

Read the full report HERE>

7a7dbf3c-5313-4863-8c7e-49c70d50b007-downtown_coronavirus_006(Asheville Citizen-Times)  A bill to redirect $5 million in Buncombe County hotel taxes to aid local tourism-related businesses has been signed by Gov. Roy Cooper as part of a larger coronavirus relief package.

Buncombe County Tourism Jobs Recovery Act sponsor NC Sen. Chuck Edwards, R-Flat Rock, said grants of up to $50,000 given to eligible small businesses and nonprofits will help them restart once the recovery begins, “in turn providing jobs and allowing workers to return to the workforce.”

Even before the economic shutdown the hotel tax had been the subject of a heated debate with critics saying the millions of dollars used for boosting tourism should be redirected to services for locals. The hotel tax-controlling body, the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority, has defended the expenditures saying economic benefits ripple throughout the region.

Read the full details about the program in the article HERE>

folwell-dmid1-5bbxnt27c-640x360-1Matt plans to ask our State Treasurer about:
– the impact of the lock-downs on the state economy
– how lost tax revenue will impact budgets and operations for local governments
– the State Health Plan’s current effort to get corrections officials across the state tested for COVID-19,
– how well the state pension plan investment portfolio is doing.

florence-95closed-1024x683-1(Carolina Journal)  The N.C. Department of Transportation overspent its budget by $742 million last year, a new state audit report shows.

The DOT is in hot water over poor money management, which, in 2019, sent its bank accounts plummeting close to a legally required cash floor. The department planned to spend $5.94 billion last year, but exceeded that amount by more than 12%, says a May report from State Auditor Beth Wood. Transportation officials overspent because they didn’t base their budget on actual cost estimates for projects. The department also failed to monitor or enforce its spending plan at DOT’s 14 highway divisions.

Operations and maintenance make up the largest part of that $742 million overspend, costing the department an extra $578 million. Construction projects cost DOT $124 million more than planned. Two miscellaneous categories make up the remaining $108 million.

Review the full feature HERE>

still0504_00001-e1588610995366(Raleigh News & Observer)  North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed a financial-relief package Monday, two days after state lawmakers unanimously approved it as a response to the coronavirus. The governor also said details about what he calls Phase One of his reopening plan will be announced by Wednesday.

The General Assembly passed two bills on Saturday — one about policy and one about funding — to spend $1.57 billion of federal funds coming to North Carolina for coronavirus relief. The state receives $3.5 billion in federal coronavirus money from the CARES Act.

Cooper signed the bills during a news conference Monday morning, accompanied by Senate leader Phil Berger, House Speaker Tim Moore, Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue and House Minority Leader Darren Jackson. Cooper, Blue and Jackson are Democrats; Berger and Moore are Republicans.

Read the full story HERE>

medicare-logo(Asheville Citizen-Times) A local laboratory company allegedly tested patients’ feces unnecessarily and billed the federal government, leading to charges of Medicare fraud. Now, they’ll pay between $17-43 million to settle those allegations and others, according to the Department of Justice. A spokesperson for Genova Diagnostics Inc. said the company denied any guilt or wrongdoing and settled the suit “to avoid considerable distraction and expense.”

Genova allegedly violated the False Claims Act, a Civil War-era law that outlines punishments for businesses that defraud the government.  A lawsuit filed in federal court alleged Genova improperly submitted claims to Medicare, TRICARE (the government health care program for service members and their families) and the federal employee health program for tests that weren’t medically necessary.

Full story HERE>

cd936a03-842a-4134-8199-f65e908bebde-greenesentencing_08282019_142(Asheville Citizen-Times) A former Buncombe contractor serving 37 months in prison for participating in a fraudulent kickback scheme with the county’s highest-appointed officials will serve significantly less time after a federal judge reduced his sentence.

His attorney, David Brown, told the Citizen Times that he hopes to get the former engineer out of prison altogether due to the risk of COVID-19.

Earlier this month, prison administrators denied Wiseman’s request for a compassionate release, Brown’s letter revealed. The attorney said Wiseman, who has Type II diabetes, is at high-risk in the Butner facility.

“Mr. Wiseman received an appropriate sentence of 37 months, but he did not receive a death sentence,” Brown said.

Read the complete report HERE>

f80c9389-c3bb-41c1-a728-2bfcc89987cf-large16x9_a3f25247069d4158be48517b6316f8a8large16x9_importedfromlakana(WLOS News 13) The North Carolina General Assembly began its annual session Tuesday by turning immediately to legislation to distribute COVID-19 federal relief funds, operating under unprecedented rules with social distancing in mind.

House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger gaveled in their floor sessions with about 20% the 170 legislators present, a contrast to full chambers on a traditional session’s first day. Absent lawmakers either were in their offices or working from home for now to avoid high-risk activities. A few on the floor wore face masks.

Even with in-person legislators scarce, hundreds of demonstrators angry with Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s extended statewide stay-at-home order greeted them as a large “ReopenNC” group rallied for a third Tuesday in a row.

Read the complete report HERE>

636108390688545055-hoodtalkforum-0013(Asheville Citizen-Times) The chief deputy at the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office is accused of stealing a firearm from a local firearms store, according to the State Bureau of Investigation. No charges have been filed to date, an SBI representative said.

Don Eberhardt serves as second-in-command under Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller, according to a command structure provided on the BCSO website.

The larceny allegedly occurred on April 9, according to the SBI’s Angie Grube. On April 21, Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams requested the SBI investigate the incident, she said.

Eberhardt was placed on paid administrative leave effective April 24, the BCSO said. “The Sherriff’s Office will have no further comment pending the conclusion of this investigation,” according to an April 25 release.

Read the full story HERE>