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Should lobbyists, campaign donors get appointed to key NC boards?

The N.C. Senate chamber in the Legislative Building in Raleigh.
Colin Campbell
The N.C. Senate chamber in the Legislative Building in Raleigh.

Democrats in the state Senate are objecting to the appointment of campaign donors and former senators to university governing boards and other state commissions.

Democratic senators voted no on a routine appointments bill on Thursday. Republicans want to put two GOP political consultants on university governing boards. One is Jim Blaine, the former chief of staff to Senate leader Phil Berger, who would join the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees. The other, Charlotte consultant Larry Shaheen, would join the UNC Charlotte Board of Trustees.

Two other appointees are former Senate Republicans: Former Sen. Kathy Harrington, R-Watauga, would join the Western Carolina University Board of Trustees, and former Sen. John Alexander, R-Wake, would join the Wildlife Resources Commission.

Sen. Michael Garrett, D-Guilford, proposed an amendment to ban recent campaign donors as well as current and former lawmakers and lobbyists from being appointed. He calls it a "good governance, common sense amendment."

Republicans shot down the amendment, which Berger says isn’t necessary.

The WUNC Politics Podcast is a free-flowing discussion of what we're hearing in the back hallways of the General Assembly and on the campaign trail across North Carolina.

"I don’t know that we need those sorts of artificial limitations," he said, noting that the Senate has recently been avoiding putting lobbyists on the UNC Board of Governors. "Folks can judge the decisions that we make in that regard and whether they support them or don’t support them."

Another provision in Garrett's amendment would ban appointments of people who have a pending disciplinary action or ethics complaint before the board or commission they want to serve on.

That appears to be aimed at Bill Aceto, a Watauga County real-estate agent who the Senate wants to put on the N.C. Real Estate Commission. That commission is currently looking into a complaint that an agent from his firm misrepresented key facts about a property she was selling. Aceto is named in the complaint because he supervises the agent involved.

Asked about Aceto's appointment, Berger says his staff talked with him and his attorney and determined that "with that information, it was my judgement that we move forward with it."

The appointments bill now goes to the House, where Speaker Tim Moore is expected to add his picks for open board and commission seats.

Colin Campbell covers politics for WUNC as the station's capitol bureau chief.