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Secret, Closed Door Meeting Tonight To Develop ‘Alternative Vision’ For NC

 Former Gov. Hunt organizing private, confidential meeting on ‘alternative vision’ for NC

Raleigh News & Observer
Former Gov. Jim Hunt is organizing a private, confidential meeting on Wednesday with an unknown group of people to help form an “alternative vision and policy roadmap” for North Carolina leaders.
In a letter to invitees, which was obtained by Dome, Hunt says he wants to convene a group to “assess our strengths, weaknesses, challenges and opportunities.”
“I am personally inviting you to join a small group of policy experts, stakeholders, and thought leaders to be part of North Carolina Roadmap 2025.”
Hunt, a Democrat who was North Carolina’s governor from 1977 to 1985 and from 1993 to 2001, wrote that the project is sponsored by Think NC First, a think tank.
Think NC First is run by a board that and executive director with ties to Democrats. Its executive director, Justin Guillory, formerly worked in the administration of Gov. Bev Perdue.

“Your participation will be private and confidential,” Hunt wrote.
Reached by phone Tuesday, Hunt declined to say who was invited – or who is attending.



Christensen: The Ponders political machine


March 1, 2014

“I believe in a two-party system,” Zeno Ponder once remarked. “A great big Democratic Party and a little bitty Republican Party.”

For 40 years, Zeno and his brother E.Y. Ponder did their best to carry out that vision of two party politics, and in the process made Madison County synonymous with machine politics and the subject of countless jokes about graveyard voting.

From the 1950s through the 1980s, the Ponders ran North Carolina’s most famous courthouse organization. The Ponders performed a good cop, bad cop routine. E.Y. was the soft-spoken, approachable sheriff, while Zeno was the hard-nosed political operative.

Madison County, in the mountains near the Tennessee border, had long been a Republican County until the Ponder boys remade it into a Democratic stronghold.

When E.Y. was elected sheriff in 1950 by 31 votes, the Republicans were so distraught they disputed the outcome and wouldn’t give up the office. E.Y. was sworn in anyway. For a short while, there was a Republican jail and a Democratic jail. The Republicans set up a machine gun outside the jail and the Democrats would drive by after dark and throw firecrackers to spook the Republicans.

This was our nightly past time,” Zeno once told an oral historian.

A down-home style

Elymas Yates Ponder (1910-2001) was a small man who never wore a uniform, rarely carried a gun, rode in an unmarked car, and never accepted a pay raise. Ponder knew the county and its people so well, he would sometimes simply call up a suspect and tell him to come down to the jail.

He is portrayed in Mark Pinsky’s book, “Met Her on the Mountain,” which is being excerpted in The N&O, as a sheriff who negligently declined to pursue a local man who may have been responsible for the gruesome murder of a young anti-poverty worker. But that is not how he was viewed in the community.

E.Y. was one of the finest and most honest people I’ve known,” the late state Sen. Herbert Hyde, the Bible and Shakespeare-quoting former state Democratic Party chairman once told me. Hyde once was so angered by a column I wrote about E.Y., which he considered critical, that he stopped talking to News and Observer reporters.

Ponder in fact gave county government a friendly, accessible face, according to interviews with mountain pols.

Ponder would typically be at the sheriff’s office from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m., although he mixed work with pleasure. Many nights 20 to 30 men would sit in a circle in the sheriff’s office and trade tall tales. Judges and other courthouse denizens would sometimes join him at the jail for a lunch of beans and cornbread.

The down-home style blunted some of the ill will he created when he destroyed between 1,500 and 2,000 illegal whiskey stills.

Brawling over ballots

But what stood out was the power of the old courthouse machine.

They had everything set up where you had to kind of go through them to get a road or job,” said Dedrick Brown, the Republican sheriff who defeated E.Y in 1986. “Anything political, you had to go through them. If somebody wanted food stamps or welfare, they called the sheriff.”

If E.Y. was widely respected, Zeno (1920-1994) elicited more mixed feelings. The one time Zeno ran for office – for the state Senate in 1964 – the State Board of Elections overturned his election. One of the ballot boxes was never found and is widely presumed to be aging in the bottom of the French Broad River.

The tally showed Zeno winning the state Senate race by 400 votes. But there were some troubling signs. The Highway Patrol had to be called in on election night to stop a brawl over the ballot boxes. More people had voted in some precincts then were registered to vote. Ballot boxes were switched. An SBI analysis found that one person had filled out numerous ballots.

When some unknown person tried to blow up his house, Zeno told reporters he was sure it was some Republican.

The Ponders reputation as political bosses grew to such an extent that long-time Secretary of State Thad Eure once remarked that the Ponders could pretty well name the vote ahead of the election.

Helms was spooked

Zeno, whose thin mustache gave him a slightly sinister look, was a highly intelligent man who graduated from N.C. State University and who worked on the Manhattan Project to develop an atomic bomb during World War II. He followed his father into the cattle farming business, served 12 years as head of the school board, but was best known for presiding over the local political machine.

Some of the Ponders’ political associates would gain statewide political influence. Hyde, who was the Ponders’ lawyer, would become state Democratic chairman. State Sen. Larry Leake, attorney for the Madison County board of commissioners and school board, would become chairman of the state Board of Elections, and Liston Ramsey would become the most powerful NC House Speaker in history.

The Ponder brother’s reputation was enough to even spook Republican Sen. Jesse Helms, who feared that Zeno might try to steal his 1984 election against Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt.

Zeno Ponder has made history in that regard,” Helms said.

Zeno would later accuse Helms of engaging in a political vendetta when a year later the feds prosecuted Ponder on charges relating to his sale to the state of land that was in the path of a state highway going through Madison County.

Zeno, a Hunt appointee to the State Board of Transportation, said he was just trying to get a needed road for his community. After he was acquitted, Zeno went before the TV cameras and held up a buckeye. The federal prosecutor, Zeno said, was just like a buckeye – a worthless nut.

Read more here:

Here is a response from Madison County native and former State Senator R.L. Clark:

Mr. Christensen, 

I am a native of Madison County! The firstborn of eight siblings to sharecropper parents. My mother died when I was 4 months shy of my 15th birthday. I left Madison County the night I was graduated with honors from Spring Creek High School in the Western Section of the County which adjoins Tennessee.

In 1981 after spending a career in the executive branch of N C State Government serving in the administrations of six (6) N C Governors (one Republican and five Democrats) I took early retirement and purchased a General Merchandise Country Store in the community of Walnut (6 miles west of Marshall ), which I operated for more than 25 years. One hears much as customers gather around a pot belly stove in a country store. In 1986 the US Marshals set up a headquarters in my place of business at Walnut in an attempt to prevent voter fraud at the Walnut precinct!

I had a late uncle who was part of the Ponder Political Machine who (in it’s later days of operation) conveyed to me many of it’s inner workings even though he was a Democrat and I was a Republican. In 1994 as a Republican, I and another Buncombe County Republican filed as candidates for the two seat Senate District 28 then held by the late Senator Herbert Hyde and Senator Dennis Winner. We were successful in the Elections of 1994 and 1996. Senator Hyde was a former Democrat State Party Chair. He was a first cousin of the late Wallace Hyde who was a major Democrat operative on the national scene. He coached basket ball at Mars Hill High school where he got his initial political training under the Ponder political machine.

The information Ms. Ryder conveyed to you doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of a very powerful and successful political machine! I personally know of one political prisoner from Madison County who is to this date still in State Prison as a result of the machine (in my opinion!). You, as a media reporter may tend to gloss over the powerful Ponder Machine but I know firsthand of its iron-fisted operations. 

RL Clark
N C State Senator
1995, 1996, 1997, 1998
Buncombe, Madison , Yancey, McDowell, Burke Counties


Unsolved murder in mountain community haunts reporter

BY MARK I. PINSKY   (Part 1 of 5)

March 1, 2014 

The first reports were vague. A young anti-poverty worker had been kidnapped, raped and murdered in the mountains of North Carolina, her body discovered almost within sight of the Appalachian Trail. Although the brutal details were downplayed, they would come out soon enough.

The woman’s college yearbook photo, her life and work, and the circumstances of her death were sketched out across the front page of the Durham Sun on June 18, 1970. Authorities had no suspects. I read the article sitting at a pitted wooden desk in an office of the Duke student newspaper, where I had spent – some might say squandered – much of my five years as an undergraduate.

I learned from the Sun that the murder victim was Nancy Dean Morgan, 24, a recent graduate of Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. She was a community organizer for the Volunteers in Service to America, or VISTA, a domestic Peace Corps, and she worked in rural Madison County with children and helped set up a thrift shop that sold used clothing. Her service was to have lasted only a few more weeks; she planned to attend nursing school in New York in the fall.

I took Nancy Morgan’s death personally, feeling a palpable kinship. I didn’t know her, and I didn’t find her in that mountain glade, but I remember feeling as though I had. Politics and idealism ignited us both. She had been shaped and transformed by the civil rights and anti-war movements, feminism and the fight against poverty. She had been drawn by, and killed in, my adopted state. And I had friends serving elsewhere in VISTA, so it hit close to home.

I tore out the article and placed it in a folder on which I scrawled “Morgan.” That file grew for more than 40 years. On spare weekends, I visited Madison County. I spent days in the library and the government records offices. I sought out anyone who might have known Nancy or who lived in the county at the time. I asked questions that many people did not want to hear. What unfolded was a tangled tale of rural noir, miscarried justice and systemic political corruption.

Meanwhile, I learned to work as a journalist – a freelance reporter covering the murder beat in the Southeast. I developed a specialty, investigating and writing about criminal cases that evolved into political causes.

Eventually, my professional focus took an unlikely turn from crime to religion (and a better class of felon, I used to joke) and from North Carolina to California and then Florida. But murder was always in the background. Nancy Morgan’s murder. And when in the upheaval of 21st-century journalism I found myself unemployed, I returned to Madison County to finally figure out who killed Nancy Morgan, and why.

* * *

In June 1970, Nancy Morgan was nearing the end of a one-year stint with VISTA. Some of the people she worked with found her plain, others pretty. She had lively brown eyes, auburn hair and a faint band of freckles across her nose. All who knew her agreed she had a quick smile, a love of puns and an effervescent laugh.

Her home in Madison County, in the rural community of Shelton Laurel, was a two-bedroom, 100-year-old cabin owned by Clarence and Glendora Cutshall, who ran a grocery store nearby. The store served as an informal community center, which enabled Nancy to make invaluable organizing contacts, thanks to her association with the Cutshalls.

The previous autumn, Clarence and Glendora had taken Nancy under their wing. Glendora felt especially close to Nancy. “She never knew a stranger,” Glendora often said. Nancy “was always friendly to anyone and had confidence even in strangers.” Still, Glendora was troubled that Nancy insisted on driving people home from evening meetings, regardless of how remote their houses were, but Nancy just brushed aside the older woman’s concern.

On Saturday, June 13, Nancy borrowed a county van, collected some young people and headed to the town of Mars Hill for a swim at the pool on the campus of Mars Hill College. There, she ran into Ed Walker, a fellow VISTA worker, who had brought a group of young people from another part of the county.

“I said to Nancy, ‘Why don’t you come over on Sunday evening if you’re not doing anything?’ ” Walker recalled. The two wanted to talk about their VISTA projects because of Nancy’s imminent departure for nursing school. “It was very casual,” Walker said. “If she showed, fine. If she hadn’t showed up, it wouldn’t have been a big deal.”

On Sunday, Nancy strolled over to Cutshall’s store to chat with Glendora and some of the customers. She told Glendora she planned to have dinner that evening with Walker, who lived in Bluff, a community about 10 miles away but almost an hour’s drive on winding mountain roads. “We told her she ought not to be out at night by herself,” Glendora recalled, “that someone might harm her in some way.”

Nancy arrived at Walker’s house around 5:30. His was also a 100-year-old cabin, its logs concealed behind white clapboard siding. Walker showed her the property – the barn, the well, the spring and the woods. “I showed her the garden,” he said,“and we picked some lettuce and onions.”

Nancy, who took pride in her cooking skills, made an omelet and a side dish of lettuce wilted with bacon grease. After dinner, two boys from the neighborhood stopped by, and the four watched the comedy movie “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” on television. “I remember after the movie, there was the news, and the guys left right after,” Walker recalled.

After that, the two adjourned to the wooden couch on the porch, lingering on its lumpy cushions for hours. They talked shop about the difficulties of community organizing in Madison County. Each had connected in small but significant ways with people in their respective communities.

They reflected on their time in that beautiful, hardscrabble place, how it had marked them and helped them grow, how it might influence the rest of their lives. Walker wanted to know what Nancy was going to do after VISTA. She expected to travel a bit, visiting friends, then start nursing school in New York. Her cap and uniform had already arrived, and she had modeled them for her friends. She had promised some of the people she worked with that, after her studies, she would return to Madison County armed with skills that could benefit the area, where poor health care was commonplace.

They discussed the future of VISTA and what Walker planned to do next. Walker went inside for a cigarette and noticed how late it was – about 3:30 a.m. Because the road to his house was steep and narrow, he turned Nancy’s car around for her. He watched until he was sure she had made it through a small creek that flowed over the road. “It was possible to get stuck,” he said. “I remember standing there and watching the headlights go until she got out to the hard road.” Once he saw the car lights turn and disappear, he returned to the house and went to bed.

He would never again see her alive.

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After a disappearance, a grisly discovery

BY MARK I. PINSKY  (Part 2 of 5)

March 2, 2014 

Suspicion of well-intentioned do-gooders in Madison County originated long before the VISTA workers arrived in the fall of 1969. Two centuries earlier, people looked warily at Methodist missionary Francis Asbury, who traveled through on horseback, toting Christian temperance in one saddlebag and disdain for fiddle music in the other.

Generations of proponents of the social gospel followed, from northern Presbyterians to New Dealers, all trying to wean mountain people from violence and alcohol, while bringing education and raising the standard of living.

Nearly all failed to leave a lasting imprint. “They were imported people who came … looking down their nose,” said Mars Hill College history professor Evelyn Underwood. “You won’t get anything from them if you come with that attitude.”

From the beginning, some of VISTA’s own officials questioned the wisdom of starting a program in such a remote, insular place. Jeffrey Hammer, who would direct all North Carolina programs, observed that all too often volunteers “were simply parachuted into communities and left on their own to fail.”

Nonetheless, Nancy Morgan had some early success in her organizing efforts – once people in the community of Shelton Laurel where she lived decided she wasn’t a federal snoop checking out welfare fraud or moonshiners. She concentrated on nutrition education and recreational activities for young people and provided transportation for those needing medical care.

‘VISTAs had no business here’

But many residents seemed to feel that however well-intentioned the VISTAs might have been, they were outsiders, and not entirely welcome. Among those taking this position were supporters of longtime political powers Zeno Ponder, the county Democratic Party chairman, and his brother E. Y. Ponder, the former sheriff. “That’s what they preached,” recalled Joe Huff, a Mars Hill attorney and Ponder foe. “The VISTAs had no business here.”

In Madison County, VISTA workers like Nancy, described by colleague Ed Walker as “a liberated woman of the 60s,” found a sexual culture of which they had little understanding. Unattached single women – especially those who smoked and drank in public, used rough language in mixed company and lived alone – were considered vulnerable and available.

On Sunday, June 14, 1970, Nancy went to visit Walker. They had dinner at Walker’s cabin and talked long into the night about their work in Madison County that would soon be ending and about what they planned to do afterward. Nancy finally left about 3:30 a.m. for the one-hour drive back across the county to Shelton Laurel.

By Tuesday, the realization spread among the VISTA workers and Nancy’s friends in Shelton Laurel that she was missing. Guessing that she had run off one of the twisting mountain roads, they divided into teams and began searching areas where they thought she might have wrecked.

A gruesome discovery

On Wednesday morning, Jimmy Lewis was driving to Hot Springs from his home near Shelton Laurel. About halfway down the mountain, he had to pee. He pulled onto an unpaved logging road in an area known as Tanyard Gap.

Lewis noticed something in a glade of towering poplars and oaks – a gray car parked in dappled sunlight. The wheels were sunk to the hubcaps. Peering through the closed windows, he saw Nancy Morgan on the back seat – naked, hogtied from behind in a kneeling position, and obviously dead.

News of the grim discovery spread quickly. Soon, the crime scene was a case study in confusion and jurisdictional chaos. As a VISTA worker, Nancy was considered a federal employee, and she drove a U.S. government vehicle. That could have made it a case for the FBI. Ordinarily, any murder in the county would be the sheriff’s case, but often when murders occurred, agents of the better-trained State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) were called in.

In The News & Observer, reporter Kerry Gruson reported that Nancy Morgan “was by all accounts a very likable person and seemed to have no enemies.” She quoted Sheriff Roy Roberts as saying,“The whole community is eager to help and that makes it a lot easier. This is a murder we cannot let go unsolved.”

Harold Reed, one of Nancy’s friends, took a darker view. Years later, he remembered thinking that “due to politics, it wasn’t going to be solved, and it never will be.”

Although FBI agents had shared control at the crime scene, the agency effectively withdrew from the case soon after Nancy’s funeral in Louisiana on June 20. That left Sheriff Roberts and the SBI to take the lead.

How locals dismissed the case

Before long, local and state law-enforcement officials developed a theory that involved a sharply different version of what happened the previous Sunday night at Ed Walker’s house. What Walker described as a quiet dinner with periodic interruptions by a few neighbors was, in their scenario, a raucous party fueled by alcohol and involving rough group sex that ended fatally for Nancy.

“There were a hundred opinions about how it happened,” said local resident Richard Dillingham. “They’re saying that surely outsiders did this horrible deed,” he recalled later. “If it were an outsider … they would be hunted down and prosecuted. But if it were local folks that were responsible for that, then it possibly should be ignored.”

As sometimes happens in murder investigations, investigators settled on a suspect and scenario early and would not be dissuaded or distracted by any evidence to the contrary. Their target was Ed Walker.

Frustrated by the case, Sheriff Roberts, a Republican, announced he would not run for reelection in November 1970. Dedrick Brown, his chief deputy, ran for the office but was defeated by the former longtime sheriff, E. Y. Ponder, who used the killing in his campaign. “He made it an issue,” recalled Brown. “He said with what all he knew about this murder, with all the information he had on the case, that he could solve it within three weeks.”

Yet for more than a decade, the investigation would lie dormant.

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During a Madison County trial in Nancy Morgan’s death, a weak case unravels

BY MARK I. PINSKY   (Part 3 of 5)

March 3, 2014

After Nancy Morgan’s murder in June 1970, former sheriff E.Y. Ponder sought his old position and was elected.

But the investigation languished, despite his vow to solve the case. By 1982, Ponder had been re-elected twice but had yet to deliver on his promise. Facing another competitive election, he again promised to solve the VISTA case. But after the election, nothing happened, again.

As sheriff, Ponder dispensed justice selectively, targeting outsiders but going light on local boys who could be counted on to vote Democratic. He also ran an extensive network of informants throughout the county. One was a petty crook named Johnny Waldroup.

In the spring of 1984, Waldroup, already on probation for a break-in, faced new charges involving vehicle theft, and another conviction would send him to state prison. In 1970, he had been a neighbor of Nancy’s fellow VISTA worker Ed Walker, the last person known to have seen Nancy alive. Now, Waldroup stepped forward with a tale that implicated Walker.

With Waldroup’s information in hand, Ponder and District Attorney Tom Rusher concluded that a case existed against Walker. On Aug. 20, 1984, after hearing testimony from Ponder, Waldroup and agents from the FBI and the SBI, a Madison County grand jury indicted Walker for first-degree murder, rape and obstruction of justice.

Then 34 and living on the Florida Gulf Coast with his wife and adolescent daughter, Walker was working as an auto-parts supervisor. Brought back to Madison County, he was booked into the jail in Marshall, the county seat. He declared himself indigent, and Superior Court Judge Charles Lamm assigned his case to attorney Joe Huff, a lifelong opponent of the Ponder regime.

Walker managed to make bail and returned home to await the trial, but his life in Florida hurtled downhill. He lost his job, and his wife was fired from her job as a police dispatcher. In short order, he lost his house, his condo, his boat and his two cars. By the time of the trial, the Walkers were down to $52 and an ancient Cadillac.

* * *

The trial began June 25, 1985, and lasted a week. But the decisive part – the testimony and cross-examination of Waldroup, the star witness – occurred the first day.

Waldroup, then in his 30s, said he had met Nancy Morgan at Walker’s house the Saturday before her final Sunday dinner – a sighting of Nancy not reported at the time or corroborated by anyone since. Late Sunday night, after hearing a noise, Waldroup said, he went to Walker’s house. “I walked around to the side of the house and looked through the window, and I see’d two people in the house and one on the couch.”

Waldroup said he recognized Walker but not the second man. The woman on the couch was Nancy.

“She didn’t have no clothes on. She had a cord running from her neck to her feet,” Waldroup said.

Waldroup testified that when he entered the house to come to Nancy’s aid, he saw her eyes moving, the lids fluttering. But before he could release her, the life seemed to go out of her. Waldroup said Walker told him that “if I didn’t help them dispose of the body, they was going to kill me. I was told if I didn’t drive the car, I’d be killed, too.”

A staggering cross-examination

Convinced the threat was genuine, Waldroup said, he drove Walker’s car while the defendant got behind the wheel of Nancy’s gray Plymouth. They proceeded to Tanyard Gap. There, he testified, “I sat and waited on him.”

All the time Waldroup was testifying for the prosecution, Huff, Walker’s attorney, was thinking, Let me get at him.

When it was his turn, Huff launched into a cross-examination sometimes so blistering it caused jurors to grimace. From the outset, Huff addressed Waldroup as “Johnny.” The witness called the attorney “Joe,” “Huff,” or simply “you.”

The first question went back to 1970: “Why did you tell Sheriff Roberts that you were not up there [at Bluff] and you didn’t know anything about what happened up there?”

Red-faced, Waldroup shot back, “I wish not to answer that question.”

Huff shifted to Waldroup’s criminal history, both to undermine his credibility and to establish a motive for him to lie – namely, the desire for special treatment from Ponder.

In light of Waldroup’s previous convictions, Huff asked, and the fact that he was supposed to be on supervised probation at the time of the truck theft, why wasn’t he in custody now? “Why are you walking around here today when you’ve got a five-year sentence you ought to be serving?” Huff demanded. “I say you didn’t tell anybody [about Nancy’s murder] until you had been down there in jail for about a year and couldn’t get out.”

“No,” Waldroup replied.

Huff: “Who’s taking care of you, Johnny? What did they promise you if you testified? … So you bought your way out of jail on a lie?”

Waldroup gave no ground, replying rapid-fire: “No.” “Lie.” “ You are lying.”

As the pressure on Waldroup grew, he repeatedly asked the judge to be excused to go to the bathroom. When the judge did not immediately agree, Waldroup stepped down and walked out of the courtroom, forcing the judge to call a hasty recess.

Exonerated, but questions linger

A few minutes later, one of the spectators looked out the window and saw Waldroup walking down the street.

Deputies retrieved him, but Waldroup was losing patience. After the cross-examination resumed, he told Huff, “I’m not answering no more of your damn questions.”

The attorney fired back, “Are you afraid you might tell the truth if I ask you enough?”

No, said Waldroup, wagging his finger in Huff’s face, “I’m just afraid my nerves will make me choke you to death.”

On Friday, the jury deliberated for a little more than an hour. When jury foreman Anthony James announced the not-guilty verdict, the entire courtroom seemed to sigh. Walker rolled his eyes to the ceiling.

Everyone in Madison County seemed relieved the trial was over, and most accepted that Ed Walker was not guilty. But many continued to wonder, Well, then, who did kill Nancy Morgan? That mystery remained.

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From a convicted murderer, a confession in 1970 western NC killing

BY MARK I. PINSKY  (Part 4 of 5)

March 4, 2014

In the subtle way that information filters through mountain communities over time, a vague alternative scenario of VISTA volunteer Nancy Morgan’s death emerged from my interviews. It centered on “local boys.” Specifically, people kept guiding me toward one group of young thugs in Hot Springs.

One day, I read a tentative list of suspects to Clyde Parks, a native who retired to Madison County after a military career. He said I had missed one likely participant, and named Richard Johnson, son of Hot Springs police chief Leroy Johnson and one of Sheriff E. Y. Ponder’s regular informers. Other old-timers, although they had no proof to offer, also seemed to steer me toward Johnson. Clearly, here was someone I needed to know more about.

By all accounts, Johnson was an arsonist, rapist, thief and vandal. I soon learned that he wasn’t just thought by his neighbors to be capable of murder, he was actually serving time for it. In 1984, he had been convicted of first-degree murder for fatally poisoning his own 5-year-old daughter in the course of a custody dispute with his estranged wife.

I located him at Yancey Correctional Center in Burnsville, and in May 1998 I interviewed him. Without hesitating, he began an eerie narration of the Morgan abduction, mostly in the third person, as if he had been just an observer.

Four other men had been involved, he said. That Sunday afternoon in June 1970, they were drinking beer at the bridge over the French Broad River just outside Hot Springs. They saw Nancy as she drove past en route to VISTA colleague Ed Walker’s home for dinner, and they were still there hours later when she drove back early Monday morning.

The men followed in two cars, boxing Nancy in at a wide place on the highway. One of the men held up a pistol and ordered her to the passenger side. They drove out of the county into Tennessee. “She tried to pay them to let her go, to contact her parents for money,” Johnson said. “She offered to leave and not return. She was scared as hell.”

Johnson said he and the others had abducted and raped women before and gotten away with it. But Nancy’s abduction was a crime of a different magnitude, something even an out-of-office sheriff recognized. To E. Y. Ponder, attacking a vulnerable local woman was one thing; abducting a federal volunteer was another. Johnson said that on Tuesday, Ponder contacted him with the message that if he and his friends had Nancy, they had better turn her loose.

On Tuesday night, Johnson said, Nancy, still alive, was brought back to Madison County, to an area near Hot Springs called Mill Ridge. Johnson insisted that he himself was not responsible for her death. “She was abused in every way possible. She was crying, hollering, everything else.” How Nancy died late Tuesday night, Johnson wouldn’t say. About 1:30 Wednesday morning, the men drove her car, with the body in it, to the nearby wooded area of Tanyard Gap where it was found later that morning.

A series of rambling letters from Johnson to me followed. In one, he again implicated the sheriff, this time in more detail. “E. Y. Ponder knew without question what happened to Nancy Morgan within hours, not days or weeks.”

In October 1998, Walker came from Florida to join me for a second interview. Again, Johnson seemed eager to talk. He included more details and spoke mostly in the first person, acknowledging that when he had spoken with me the first time, “I left my part out.” Turning to me and then to Walker, he said, “This man had nothing to do with it.” As in the earlier interview, he named the other men involved, including his friend Henry Sharpe, who was still free.

Of particular interest to Walker and me were his descriptions of what occurred on Tuesday night. He included information never disclosed in printed accounts of the events or at Walker’s 1985 trial.

One key detail was that Nancy had been tied up and held captive in an old barn. An SBI report on the nylon cord used to tie Nancy had found stains on it described as having been made by “dirty oil or grease” and “reddish brown modeling clay,” along with strands of “yellowish brown animal hair.”

That night, Johnson said, while he was at home in Hot Springs to eat, “E. Y. called me. He said, ‘If you know anything about that girl, you better get her to where she can be found … because all hell’s getting ready to break loose.’” The problem, Johnson said, was that “we were afraid to bring her off the mountain.”

Nancy’s death was unintentional, Johnson maintained. “No one forced her into choking like that.” He would not speculate about how it occurred, insisting he was not present when Nancy died. “I won’t add nothing I don’t know for a fact.”


I didn’t speak to Johnson again for 11 years. Career and family obligations intervened, and I was weary of the case’s twists and turns. But in 2009, approaching the 40th anniversary of Nancy’s death, I felt it was growing late for me to produce some resolution.

This time, Johnson, now 61, was at Central Prison in Raleigh, being treated for heart problems. Although he sometimes seemed vacant and distracted, he immediately began answering my questions.

He told me that “fifteen times” over the years, he had told E. Y. Ponder the true story of what happened, but Ponder “didn’t want to believe it.”

I asked what effect his confession might have on his prospects for parole, especially since he had been turned down five times.

“All they could do is charge me,” he said. “But I’m now doing life, so they can’t give me no more time. It’d be a waste of the state’s money.”

Finally, I asked him what he would say now to George Morgan, Nancy’s brother, if he could speak to him.

He said his words would be, “I’m so sorry that it happened. Things just got out of hand. There ain’t no good way to put it.”

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Will 44-year-old case of Nancy Morgan’s murder ever be solved?

BY MARK I. PINSKY  (Part 5 of 5)

March 5, 2014

Had I been working on the story of Nancy Morgan’s murder for a newspaper, I’d have written an article about Richard Johnson’s confessions and let law enforcement pursue my findings later. But in a case this cold, I didn’t think that would work.

So early in 1999, I met in Boone with District Attorney Tom Rusher, who years earlier had prosecuted Ed Walker and Johnson, and I revealed what I had learned about and from Johnson.

Two State Bureau of Investigation agents, David Barnes and Bruce Jarvis, soon visited me at my home in Florida to go through my material. Oddly – to me – the agents seemed uninterested in the Richard Johnson scenario and remained focused on Ed Walker, despite his 1985 acquittal.

I should have known better. After covering many murder cases, I knew that once law-enforcement officials settle on a suspect or a theory, they can rarely be shaken from it.

Barnes and Jarvis did pursue the investigation for a while. They visited Johnson in prison, where he repeated his confession. He also took a polygraph test. The agents found the results ambiguous. As time passed, they apparently lost interest; in any event, they stopped responding to my inquiries.

Ally in sheriff, denial in suspect

When their interest wilted, I felt so disappointed and frustrated that I considered giving up on the project. But anger and determination replaced discouragement, and I decided to go back over as much of the investigation as I could.

With help from Madison County’s sheriff, John Ledford, I located Henry Sharpe, whom Johnson had implicated in the crime. We met at his home near Asheville, and I asked about his memories of Hot Springs and Johnson. Initially wary, he soon shifted into storytelling mode. “Me and him ran together,” Sharpe said. “We would stay out all night, running wild.”

Gradually, I steered the conversation toward Nancy’s murder. Johnson, I told him, had admitted he had something to do with it. Did he believe that?

“Sure don’t,” Sharpe said, although he acknowledged being in the group drinking beer that Sunday evening by the bridge at Hot Springs. “Richard would lie a lot, but he didn’t do nothing like that.” Sharpe’s vehement denial effectively ended the interview.

‘That’s … dead wrong’

I also managed to track down Johnny Waldroup, the main witness against Ed Walker, in Cocke County, nearby in Tennessee. When I mentioned Richard Johnson and his Hot Springs friends as possible suspects in Nancy’s murder, it set Waldroup off. “That’s wrong,” he said hotly. “That’s bad wrong, dead wrong.” The person responsible, he insisted, was Walker.

Frustrated by Sharpe’s and Waldroup’s denials and troubled by the lingering doubts the SBI agents had raised, I allowed myself to go slack on the case for a few years and moved on to other things. But by 2009, approaching the 40th anniversary of Nancy’s death, it was growing late to produce some resolution. I had to try one more time.

For me, the most troubling loose end was the conclusion by SBI agents Barnes and Jarvis that Johnson’s account of the abduction and rape was not credible. I wanted to confront them once more, now that both men had retired after distinguished careers. I asked Sean Devereux, a friend from my Duke undergrad days and one of Asheville’s leading defense attorneys, for help. He agreed to arrange a meeting.

We met in Sean’s office. Barnes quickly took control, recounting the agents’ efforts to pursue my leads in 1999 and 2000. He reiterated what he had told me in 2000 – that the two had visited Johnson in prison. Johnson had repeated his confession, including the list of his alleged accomplices, and initialed a written statement.

The agents also had located Jackie Tweed, one of the men Johnson named. Jarvis went to see Tweed at his home in Virginia, but Tweed denied knowing anything about the killing. He willingly provided fingerprints and a blood sample. Neither the prints nor the DNA matched those in the SBI’s possession, Barnes said.

* * *

Beginning to put Nancy’s story into writing helped distill my unanswered questions. But how was I to conclude this tale when its loose ends marred a neat resolution? Excluding the possibility of a random act – say, a lone hitchhiker at 3 a.m. – there remained two plausible but fundamentally different narratives: Richard Johnson’s and E.Y. Ponder’s, implicating Ed Walker.

What do I believe happened?

A jury rejected the Ponder account in 1985, and nothing I had turned up made me think the jury was wrong. Rejecting the Walker scenario propels me to Richard Johnson’s version, or some variation of it. I believe that Johnson and his friends, or at least people he knew, hijacked Nancy as she drove past Hot Springs on her way home early that Monday morning. The death was the result of a rape that began as a crime of opportunity.

This conclusion fits the evidence I have gathered and evaluated. Although doubts persist about Johnson’s credibility, his confession is plausible. The three versions he gave to me, while differing in some particulars, were fundamentally consistent, and consistent with the crime-scene evidence and testimony.

The public may never know the truth, especially if the DNA samples in the custody of the SBI are never tested against the prime suspects other than Richard Johnson (who was not a match), as I suspect they have not been and will not be. The evidence supports that Nancy’s death came at the hands of more than one individual. But the additional living parties whose names have come to light – Henry Sharpe and Jackie Tweed – strongly deny involvement.

Will Nancy’s murder ever be officially resolved? I doubt it. For 15 years, the staff at SBI headquarters in Raleigh steadfastly refused to respond to my queries or to pursue the evidence I uncovered.

Whichever account of the killing is accurate, I believe a force larger than a single man, or even five men, must share the blame. Nancy Morgan’s murder took place in a political culture in which people in authority turned blind eyes to the actions of men like Richard Johnson. And yet such crimes take place every day in America. Corruption can contaminate justice anywhere. Madison County is no more insular and violence-prone than many other places.

Read more here:


Where are they now? A look at major players in the Nancy Morgan case


March 5, 2014

In 2009, I had lunch with Ed Walker, whom I hadn’t seen for years. I almost didn’t recognize him. He was tanned, relaxed and upbeat. He had a job he liked, involving travel. Walker said he had mellowed over the years and had largely put the murder trial behind him. He and his daughter had even held a ceremonial bonfire and destroyed all his files on the case. He has disappeared and no longer responds to my emails.

Joe Huff, Walker’s defender, practiced law for another decade after the acquittal. He died in 2002.

E. Y. Ponder and his brother Zeno also have died. Ironically, the Ponder clan in the new century has returned to high places in Madison County, though in a transformed way. In 2009, two members of the new generation sat on the county commission, a third was mayor of Marshall, and a fourth was director of the county elections board. But none of these public figures was an offspring of Zeno or E. Y. The cohesive Ponder machine long ago disappeared.

Richard Johnson remains in the North Carolina prison system and has little chance of parole. Johnny Waldroup lives in Tennessee.

Now, as a former community organizer inhabits the White House, it seems Nancy Morgan’s VISTA work has come full circle in Madison County. Duke University has established a student-staffed summer program for young people in the Spring Creek area. The project has had its challenges, some of which would be familiar to the VISTAs and all those who went before. But those students are doing well.

Read more here:
  • A CHANGED NAMEEd Walker is not the real name of the man described in this story. Because he was concerned about dredging up such a traumatic experience from so long ago, he agreed to cooperate only if given a pseudonym.
    Read more here:



Good Ole Boys

Carter Wrenn posted on June 18, 2013 10:47

The newspaper set out to land a Democratic shark. And landed a Republican whale instead.

The roots of the News and Observer story run back 26 years – to when Jim Martin was Governor. Back then the Democrats in the legislature decided, instead of letting Martin pass out what’s euphemistically called ‘Economic Development Grants,’ they’d set up their own independent group and pass them out themselves. That gave birth to The Rural Center. Which ripened into a classic ‘good ole boy’ network that worked (for the politicians) like a charm:

* Democratic Legislators gave Billy Ray Hall – their choice to head The Rural Center –  money.

* Legislators then ‘suggested’ who Hall give grants to.

* Then Hall trooped back to the legislature to ask  for more money.

Legislators liked it so well they kept right on doing it after Jim Hunt was elected, and they set up more ‘good ole boy’ funds with high-sounding names like The Golden Leaf Foundation and The Clean Water Management Trust Funds.

It all rolled along fine for over two decades then two misfortunes occurred: Republicans took control of the legislature. And Billy Ray Hall landed on the front page of the News and Observer – alongside a picture of, of all people on earth, Art Pope.

After years of opposing pork barrel giveaways Art probably never dreamed he’d open the newspaper one morning and see his picture sitting beside headlines reading: “Spending in the Shadows” – “Politicians, powerful touch NC Rural Center cash” – and “Pope acknowledged his company may have been indirectly helped.”

My suspicion is Art got famoozled or just plain ambushed, but, anyway, his cutting (as Governor McCrory’s budget director) Billy Ray Hall’s funding by 60% is pretty good proof he isn’t lusting after state money.

That said, Art’s also the one Republican Democrats love to hate so the Democrats are going to holler bloody murder.

On the other hand, the News and Observer just handed Republicans a gift: A golden opportunity to drive a spike through the heart of ‘good ole boy’ politics and pork barrel spending.

For years Billy Ray Hall’s had an unusually happy job: He gives away money. Which is almost a sure fire way to make friends – and being no fool Billy Ray long ago figured that out. Over the years he’s given tens of millions of dollars in grants at the request of Lt. Governors, State Senators, State Senators and State Representatives.

The News & Observer told a story about one grant: A State Senator asked Hall to give a $300,000 grant to help a business in his district. Billy Ray waived a few rules and awarded the grant. And the Senator raised $6,500 from partners in the business for his campaign.

Hall’s Rural Center has also poured millions into companies that don’t seem to need help at all – like Wendy’s, Kohl’s, Krispy Kreme, Bojangles’ and Walmart (which benefited from $6 million in state subsidies).  And funded grants to help a golf course near Southern Pines and a video sweepstakes company in Greenville – all dressed up in a figure-leaf of effusive love for rural North Carolina, or as Hall opined to the News and Observer, “I eat, sleep, and breathe rural North Carolina.”

It’s all ‘good ole boy’ pork barreling at its most glorious but there’s one problem: Letting legislators pick who gets state money probably isn’t the best way to create jobs.

Right now, Billy Ray Hall’s sitting on $69 million in unspent state cash in the Rural Center’s bank account. So what happens next matters.

In the Governor’s budget, Art Pope proposed cutting The Rural Center’s funding 60% this year – giving Hall another $6.6 million.

The State House went in the opposite direction – instead of cutting, it increased Hall’s funding – giving him another $36 million over two years.

The Senate cut Hall’s funding to zero. And didn’t give him another penny.

Which bring us back to the N&O’s gift: The problem here isn’t Billy Ray Hall or just Billy Ray Hall, it’s ‘good ole boy’ politics and legislators setting up pork barrel funds with high sounding names to dole out state money.

Some Republicans are naturally sort of intrigued by the idea of turning those ‘good ole boy’ Democratic funds into ‘good ole boy’ Republican funds. But this is no time to succumb to temptation. Instead Republicans ought to shut ‘em down and deal ‘good ole boy’ politics a lethal blow.  They can start with The Rural Center.




4-23-13          Asheville Citizen Times        by John Boyle:

A blistering state memo says former Alcohol Law Enforcement Director John Ledford violated state law and inappropriately made himself the highest-paid ALE agent in the state late last year when he requested and then pushed through his own reassignment.

Ledford, 47, a former Madison County sheriff who headed ALE from October 2009 to December 2012, asked for a demotion to field agent ahead of the Republican takeover of state government. He was fired from that position April 12.

Last week, Ledford said his firing as an ALE agent in Asheville was “obviously politically motivated.”

But the April 10 memo to Ledford from Department of Public Safety Commissioner Frank L. Perry suggests Ledford’s reassignment to the Asheville job “was a violation of law and policy” and that “corrective action” was warranted. The review “uncovered ethical and legal concerns associated with your reallocation,” Perry wrote.

Perry noted that Ledford requested the reassignment Nov. 27, 2012, to a position as special agent in the Asheville district, although the only opening at the time was in Wilmington. Also, Perry said Ledford requested that his salary be “the maximum of your assigned position,” or $65,887. At that time, the available position in Wilmington was budgeted at $39,198.

You then, in effect, recommended approval of your own request by signing the Personnel Action Clearance Form in your capacity as Division Director,” Perry wrote. The request was then “confirmed” by Chief Operating Officer Mikael Gross, not the deputy director, as protocol required.

This inappropriate deviation from normal practice had the effect of sending a clear message that neither Human Resources nor Fiscal had any real authority to deny your request,” Perry wrote. “Not only did this procedure result in approval of a request that should not have been approved, it also resulted in approval at an excessive salary ($65,887), thereby making you the highest-paid Special Agent in the division.”

Ledford said last week he had hired Larry Leake, a prominent attorney in Asheville and Madison County, and the former chairman of the state Board of Elections. Leake has long been influential in Democratic politics.

I have retained legal counsel in anticipation of civil action, and I fully expect to be reinstated,” Ledford said previously.

The Citizen-Times could not reach Ledford or Leake for comment Monday.

A Democrat appointed by former Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue, Ledford came under fire last summer after state Auditor Beth Wood released a report critical of Ledford and former Deputy Director Allen Page. Wood said they failed to keep adequate records regarding use of state vehicles for personal travel between their jobs in Raleigh and their homes in the Asheville area.

Ledford tried to quash the investigation by issuing a cease-and-desist order shortly before Wood was to testify to the legislative committee about the matter.

Perry, a 22-year veteran of the FBI, served as director of investigations for the State Auditor’s Office and has worked with the N.C. State Ethics Commission.

Ledford was working in Asheville under Page, special agent in charge of the local office and Ledford’s former deputy director. Ledford’s salary in Asheville was nearly $45,000 less than his pay as director.

Perry said Ledford — if he had any entitlement to be placed in the position — should have been paid at the salary he last held in that level of work, “not at the top of the pay scale.”

Perry also stated that Ledford’s move “violated the promotional rights of subordinate employees,” and his pay level created a salary inequity.

As ALE director, you knew or should have known that you did not have any reassignment rights, that it was inappropriate to reallocate and subsequently transfer a position for any purpose other than a legitimate business need, that the position you were ‘reassigned’ to was required to be posted and that your new salary was clearly excessive,” Perry wrote. “Accordingly, your participation in the events described herein cannot be viewed as anything less than unacceptable personal conduct on your part.”

The memo dismissing Ledford also notes that “as a noncareer state employee, you have no right to appeal this decision.” Previously, a Public Safety spokeswoman said Ledford had 15 days from his dismissal to appeal.

The Asheville agent position will be transferred back to Wilmington, where it is needed, Perry said.

Ledford was an ALE agent for five years and spent seven years as a reserve agent. He was Madison County sheriff for 11 years. His 23 years of state service do not qualify him for retirement yet, he said previously.

Ledford’s separation was effective immediately. He will receive a lump-sum payment for unused vacation.


Madison Commissioner Involved in Questionable Activity at A-B Tech

ASHEVILLE — A move that effectively blocked the appointment of a critic to the Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College board of trustees may have violated state law.

The issue centers on whether Madison County commissioners followed state open meetings law in appointing a fellow commissioner to serve on A-B Tech’s board without giving public notice a vote would take place.

Madison commissioners appointed Wayne Brigman during a specially called night meeting Feb. 18. He was sworn in the following morning in a hastily arranged ceremony in the office of college President Hank Dunn.

The swearing-in marked the first time a trustee has not been welcomed with ceremony at a full board meeting.

Buncombe County commissioners later that same day appointed fellow commissioner Mike Fryar, a critic of A-B Tech’s administration. But state law limits the number of county commissioners allowed on the trustees board, and that restriction blocked Fryar’s appointment.

A notice for the Feb. 18 Madison meeting said it was called to discuss applicants for county manager. It contained no mention of making an appointment to the A-B Tech board.

State law says public bodies subject to the open meetings law have to stick to the topics set out in a notice of a special meeting when they hold one, an attorney for the N.C. Press Association said.

If they said, ‘We’re going to do X,’ then they cannot do Y,” attorney Amanda Martin said.

Brigman said he asked to be appointed at the Feb. 18 meeting because another Madison County resident had resigned and he thought — incorrectly, it turned out — the A-B Tech board met the next day.

Two Madison commissioners said this week there was no intent to break the open meetings law or affect relations between Fryar and A-B Tech.

If we didn’t follow the law, it was inadvertent,” said James Baker, vice chairman of the board.

Chairwoman Sue Vilcinskas said commissioners had no intention for “any kind of trick meeting or that kind of thing.”

There was not any intent at all to do anything that wasn’t legal,” she said.

The issue is not between Madison County and Buncombe County, Vilcinskas said.

It’s between Buncombe County and A-B Tech,” she said.

Hal Harrison, attorney for Madison commissioners, declined to comment Thursday, saying, “I have to discuss this with my board.”

Martin said Madison commissioners would have been within the law if they had simply recessed their Feb. 11 meeting and continued it Feb. 18.

The law does not restrict topics that can be taken up in a regular meeting but says a public body is limited to the subjects it gave notice of when it holds a special meeting.

The difference may seem to be one of semantics, but Martin said there is a good reason the requirements for regular meetings and special meetings are different.

For a special meeting, people might decide against going if they have no interest in the topic.

If the board continues a regular meeting, “The public’s at least on notice that anything is fair game,” Martin said.

State law allows anyone to file suit asking that the court declare null and void an action taken by a public body that did not comply with the open meetings law.

Martin said that if someone brought a suit challenging Brigman’s appointment, a judge would probably find “it’s a violation of the law, but I don’t know that they would win on overturning the decision.”

Fryar said he is reluctant to push for a lawsuit on the issue.

Then you’ve got all these attorneys from the counties going against each other over one person, and that’s me,” he said.

But he said he could revisit that decision.

Fryar has criticized A-B Tech over a referendum that raised the sales tax in Buncombe County to pay for building projects and says he has concerns over the job Dunn is doing.

Dunn could not be reached for comment for previous Citizen-Times stories on the issue. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday or Thursday this week. Board Chairman Richard Hurley also could not be reached.

Fryar might still find himself on the board of trustees.

State law says commissioners of counties served by a community college can appoint up to six members of its board of trustees, but only one of those members can be a county commissioner.

The limit, however, does not apply to the four appointments made by the governor. Fryar said he has already spoken to Gov. Pat McCrory, a fellow Republican, in hopes of getting one of those seats when one comes open July 1.

Fryar said Wednesday he blames A-B Tech officials for Brigman’s appointment and does not think Madison officials were trying to cause a problem for him.

Brigman, he said, “just got talked into this.”



Leaked Email Reveals George Soros Plot

Friday, March 8, 2013

The George Soros Blueprint for North Carolina

Leaked email reveals shadowy liberal network in Tarheel State

A nonprofit organization in North Carolina funded by progressive mega-donor George Soros has been linked to a partisan strategy memo aimed at derailing the state Republican leadership’s legislative agenda, throwing light on the shadowy network of liberal groups that operate in the state.

The memo surfaced as part of a set of leaked documents that also contained liberal talking points and polling data. Stephanie Bass, the communications director for the liberal nonprofit group Blueprint NC, allegedly emailed out the documents.

Bass called the documents “CONFIDENTIAL” in her email and asked recipients to share them “with your boards and appropriate staff but not the whole world.”

Blueprint NC coordinates with other liberal nonprofits in North Carolina. The Soros-financed Open Society Institute was the third-largest donor to the group in 2011, according to tax forms. Soros has been linked with other shadowy liberal financing operations, most notably the Democracy Alliance.

The strategy memo proposes that liberal groups work closely with liberal state legislators on unspecified bills and strategy and try to exploit tensions between various Republican leaders.

The memo also proposes specific opposition measures the group can take against Republican leaders. One proposal is to send a video crew to follow Republican state leaders’ “every move.”

Another is to send operatives to Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s public events in order to pose “audience questions at any town hall.” The memo contains both a two-year and ten-year vision for the progressive group.

Read more:

Missing Connection: WRAL and Blueprint NC, $1.7 million in support

Posted on February 26, 2013 by Francis De Luca in Corruption & Ethics, Elections & Voting, Legislative Activity

When reporting on Blueprint NC’s leaked documents, WRAL was all over the story, with one exception: It somehow failed to mention in any of its stories that the owners of the station are deeply entangled with the left-wing group and some of its allies.

A strategy memo  from liberal policy group Blueprint North Carolina details the game plan of how a coalition of non-profits will “attack” elected officials in North Carolina. The Charlotte Observer broke the story and included these excerpts:

  • “Crippling their leaders (McCrory, Tillis, Berger etc.).”
  • “Eviscerate the leadership and weaken their ability to govern.”
  • “Pressure McCrory at every public event.”
  • “Slam him when he contradicts his promises.”
  • “Private investigators and investigative reporting, especially in the executive branch…”

Later that day WRAL put reporter Mark Binker’s story about Blueprint NC online. But in its story WRAL left out important information about its long-running connection to Blueprint and to many of the organizations which comprise the Blueprint NC network. In a quick blog post last week I explained there was a deep and long connection between the Goodmon family-controlled Capitol Broadcasting and Blueprint NC and other activist liberal groups. WRAL is only one part of a media conglomerate. Capitol owns TV stations, radio stations and new media companies across North Carolina, plus other properties.

Also, the Goodmon family has four family members on the nine-member board of the A.J. Fletcher Foundation. According to the group’s web site, this includes Barbara Goodmon, the President; Jim Goodmon, the Chairman of the Board; and two Goodmon sons. The Executive Director of the Fletcher Foundation was formerly the head of the NC Center for Voter Education, which was an original Blueprint NC member. While the exact amount is hard to determine, the Fletcher Foundation has directly funded Blueprint NC and has given at least $1.7 million to Blueprint and other affiliated groups.

The connections go past just contributions. Chris Fitzsimon, a former WRAL reporter, is head of the liberal NC Policy Watch, the original lead attack group in the Blueprint coalition. Fitzsimon is provided free airtime on Goodmon-owned WRAL-FM from which he launches daily attacks on political opponents. The Fletcher Foundation has been a long time funder of Policy Watch, which is a project of the North Carolina Justice Center, also a large recipient of Fletcher Foundation grants.

Grants from A.J. Fletcher to Blueprint NC and Affiliates, 2008-2011
From the Civitas Institute (

Grantor 990 Year Grantee Amount
AJ Fletcher Foundation 2008 Common Cause NC $25,000
AJ Fletcher Foundation 2008 NC Justice Center $335,000
AJ Fletcher Foundation 2009 NC Housing Coalition $70,000
AJ Fletcher Foundation 2009 NC Justice Center $335,000
AJ Fletcher Foundation 2009 Ending Homelessness Raleigh Wake Fund TCF $25,000
AJ Fletcher Foundation 2010 El Pueblo $25,000
AJ Fletcher Foundation 2010 NC Justice Center $380,000
AJ Fletcher Foundation 2010 NC Housing Coalition $70,000
AJ Fletcher Foundation 2010 Blueprint NC $35,000
AJ Fletcher Foundation 2011 Common Cause NC $40,000
AJ Fletcher Foundation 2011 NC Justice Center $308,000
AJ Fletcher Foundation 2011 NC Housing Coalition $75,000
AJ Fletcher Foundation 2011 Wake Up Wake County $10,000

In addition to the funding and personnel overlap, WRAL is also essentially doing one of the items in the strategy memo. The memo calls for its allies to track McCrory “Campaign Promises” and “slam him when he contradicts his promise.” WRAL appears to have taken that action by launching its “Promise Tracker,” complete with skull and crossbones symbols.

This is not the first time Civitas has written on Blueprint NC and its members. In January 2010 while researching ACORN, we reported on Blueprint NC along with this handy chart. Blueprint played a key coordinating role leading up to the 2008 election and its extensive network was very involved in “Get Out the Vote” activities in North Carolina. We also wrote a later article about Blueprint’s role in influencing the news you are getting.

In addition to “Promise Tracker,” WRAL has shown considerably more interest in the NC legislature since Republicans won the majority. After the 2010 election, the station hired a full-time Capital Bureau Chief, Laura Leslie, who previously worked for the local public radio affiliate. In 2012 they added Mark Binker, who was a reporter for the Greensboro News & Record. They assign additional personnel to stories as the need arises. From 2010 to today, WRAL went from no full-time legislative and state government coverage to two-plus reporters on the beat.

There is much lamenting among not only conservatives but also the public at large about the degradation of news coverage. A lot of complaints center on news reports not matching up with what people actually see around them. In the digital era, the ability of ordinary citizens to be their own “fact checkers” has hastened the trend towards more informed consumption of what we view, read and hear.

When a news outlet fails to give consumers all of the pertinent facts, it erodes trust in all of the reporting by that outlet and the media in general. With the Blueprint NC report there is real reason to wonder why WRAL did not report all the aspects of this story.

This article was posted in Corruption & Ethics, Elections & Voting, Legislative Activity by Francis De Luca on February 26, 2013 at 2:49 PM.


NC nonprofit faces funding loss after memo on plan to ‘eviscerate’ GOP leadershi

Published February 25, 2013p
A North Carolina nonprofit group that proposed using private investigators and other tough political-opposition tactics to “eviscerate” state Republican leaders now faces losing nearly half its funding, after the plans were uncovered last week.
Blueprint North Carolina, in a memo emailed to partner nonprofits and reported on last week by The Charlotte Observer, called for “crippling” Republican leaders and launching direct attacks on Republican Gov. Pat McCrory.
“Pressure McCrory at every public event,” Blueprint recommended, according to the confidential memo obtained by the newspaper. “Slam him when he contradicts his promises.”
In pointed language, the memo also called for “private investigators” and a “staff of video trackers” to follow targeted officials. “Eviscerate the leadership,” the email reportedly said.
The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, which reportedly is providing $400,000 of Blueprint North Carolina’s $1 million in funding, now says it is consulting with a lawyer on how to move forward. Foundation Executive Director Leslie Winner said she’s not sure whether Blueprint violated its tax-exempt status by getting involved in partisan politics. But the group at the very least exercised “bad judgment,” she said, according to The Charlotte Observer.
Winner said the foundation “believes in robust debate on issues of public importance” but does not support attacking people, according to The Observer.
“We will get to the bottom of it,” added Winner, who did not respond Monday to questions from about the foundation’s funding decision. Blueprint North Carolina also did not return a request for comment.
Blueprint says its mission is to influence state policy so residents will “benefit from more progressive policies” such as better access to health care and a cleaner environment.
However, the group also says all activities will be “strictly non-partisan” and that its charity status prohibits it from getting involved in political campaigns – for or against any candidate for public office.
Executive Director Sean Kosofsky told The Observer that Blueprint is operating within its scope because its efforts are directed at elected officials, not political candidates.
The memo also included talking points identical to language used by House Minority Leader Larry Hall in his response to McCrory’s State of the State address, including that the governor’s plan for charter schools “lacks accountability.”
Hall told the newspaper last week he’s not sure where his language came from because he researches a variety of sources.

Read more:

Al-Jazeera buys Current TV from Al Gore

By RYAN NAKASHIMA AP Business Writer The Associated Press

Wednesday, January 2, 2013 9:54 PM EST

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Al-Jazeera, the Pan-Arab news channel that struggled to win space on American cable television, has acquired Current TV, boosting its reach in the U.S. nearly ninefold to about 40 million homes. With a focus on U.S. news, it plans to rebrand the left-leaning news network that cofounder Al Gore couldn’t make relevant.

The former vice president confirmed the sale Wednesday, saying in a statement that Al-Jazeera shares Current TV’s mission “to give voice to those who are not typically heard; to speak truth to power; to provide independent and diverse points of view; and to tell the stories that no one else is telling.”

The acquisition lifts Al-Jazeera’s reach beyond a few large U.S. metropolitan areas including New York and Washington, where about 4.7 million homes can now watch Al-Jazeera English.

Al-Jazeera, owned by the government of Qatar, plans to gradually transform Current into a network called Al-Jazeera America by adding five to 10 new U.S. bureaus beyond the five it has now and hiring more journalists. More than half of the content will be U.S. news and the network will have its headquarters in New York, spokesman Stan Collender said.

Collender said there are no rules against foreign ownership of a cable channel — unlike the strict rules limiting foreign ownership of free-to-air TV stations. He said the move is based on demand, adding that 40 percent of viewing traffic on Al-Jazeera English’s website is from the U.S.

“This is a pure business decision based on recognized demand,” Collender said. “When people watch Al-Jazeera, they tend to like it a great deal.”

Al-Jazeera has long struggled to get carriage in the U.S., and the deal suffered an immediate casualty as Time Warner Cable Inc., the nation’s second-largest cable TV operator, announced it is dropping Current TV due to the deal.

“Our agreement with Current has been terminated and we will no longer be carrying the service. We are removing the service as quickly as possible,” the company said in a statement.

ALE Director (Ledford) wants to be field agent again

December 28, 2012 07:04 EST

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — The director of the N.C. Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement has asked for a demotion ahead of the incoming Republican administration.

The Department of Public Safety says outgoing department secretary Reuben Young approved John Ledford’s request to return to Asheville as an agent starting Jan. 1.

Ledford was appointed by Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue and served in the agency’s top position for three years. During his tenure, ALE expanded into enforcement activities including a SWAT-like unit that serves high-risk warrants and chases fugitives.

Earlier this year, the state auditor issued a critical report saying Ledford blocked its investigation into what it said was misuse of his state car. Ledford insisted he only used the car on state business, even though it coincided with trips home to the mountains from Raleigh.

NC State Board of Elections, Who is really in charge and who do they work for?

Posted on December 11, 2012 by Francis De Luca in Corruption & Ethics

The North Carolina State Board of Election (SBE) is really two different organizations. To the public it is the appointed State Board of Elections consisting of political appointees of the governor representing the two major parties in North Carolina. More importantly, it is the bureaucratic staff that dominates both the election machinery and increasingly the way campaigns are conducted in North Carolina.

It is important to know that the North Carolina State Board of Elections is said to be one of the most authoritative boards of its kind in the country. It is an independent state agency and does not come under the jurisdiction of any other department headed by an elected official.

In 1986 the state elections staff consisted of five people and a moderate budget. In 2012 SBE staff is approaching 60 employees and pay and benefits exceed $3.5 million. While a poster child for how state government has grown over the last several decades, what is more worrisome is how the staff operates when making decisions that affect the very foundation of our democratic system of representative government.

Civitas has used the public records law to request information to piece together how decisions were made and actions taken by the staff of the SBE. What we found was a decision process that was heavily influenced, and in some cases directed, by one lobbyist for special interest groups. These actions even included the drafting of materials paid for by taxpayers and the planning of legislative lobbying and media campaigns. In addition, critical decisions that affected elections were kept out of public view and were not taken to the SBE for approval.

Getting the information was not easy. The SBE staff attempted to stonewall, delay and illegally charge Civitas for information that the law clearly says is public. Despite our persistence we believe that there are records that were not provided despite the law’s clear readings. But the records that were provided were enough to paint a disturbing picture of a supposedly professional staff that acted in anything but a professional way.

The first conclusive indication that there was trouble in the SBE staff was the response to a public records request made concerning communications involving lobbyist Bob Hall of the liberal advocacy group DemocracyNC.

The initial request was made of seven questions or requests for copies of emails. The request was made by email to Don Wright, the SBE’s General Counsel, on December 5, 2011. The first response from Mr. Wright was received on December 20, 2011. His response included an estimate of charges that would total approximately $4,800. The sticking point was the retrieval of emails. The estimate included a rate of $60 an hour for 60-80 hours of work. After some discussion, the request for emails was revised and we asked only for emails to and from Bob Hall or Democracy NC. During the month of January the SBE moved its offices and Mr. Wright underwent surgery, but on January 25 Mr. Wright forwarded the answers to all the initial questions except for the request of emails concerning Bob Hall. On March 13 we were informed that they had run the preliminary search and had retrieved 3,956 emails and it would cost approximately $1,500.

After an attempt to pare the request down and more back and forth about the estimated costs, we sought advice from a State House member. On June 5, Rep. David Lewis, Chairman of the House Elections Committee, forwarded an email with his opinion on our public records request to the SBE.

Rep. Lewis’ email resulted in the SBE withdrawing their demand for money, but still, we didn’t receive the emails until the second week of August 2012. At that time we received over 5,000 emails to and from Bob Hall or Democracy NC with attachments. There were duplicate emails but well over half of them were unique.

The attached emails show a SBE staff more interested in hiding and foot-dragging than in disclosure in accordance with the law.

In our second story in the series we will see why they felt compelled to try and resist disclosing these communications. It sets the stage for looking at a SBE staff interested in fighting a political fight rather than carrying out implementation of the law in a non-partisan, efficient manner.


Source:  The Blaze

Another vacation coming up this Christmas for the Obama’s will cost American taxpayers over $4 million dollars. So how much is it costing us to support the first family? The number is much worse than you could possibly imagine.

“Every year (taxpayers in England) have to spend $57.8 million for the first family of Great Britain to make sure that everything’s maintained and everything is taken care of and their security and everything else, $57.8 million. And the people in England are upset about it,” Glenn explained this morning.

“How much did we pay our royal family? How much did it take to maintain our royal family, the Obamas, just last year? Now, this is really interesting, especially as we come up for another vacation for the Obamas. This one is going to cost us $4 million. This vacation in Hawaii for Christmas is going to cost you $4 million. How much did we spend last year? Remember, the royal family cost $57.8 million. Would you be stunned if I told you it was $50 million? Would you be ‑‑ would you be bowled over if it was $100 million? How much do we spend? The total last year, a little higher than $57.8 million.”

So what was it? $60 million? No. $100 million? Nope. $250 million? Not even close.

The answer: $1.4 billion

“Look, I have no problem, no problem with the president of the United States taking a vacation. I’ve never had a problem with it. I’ve never had a problem with the president going on vacation when it was Bill Clinton, when it was George W. Bush or even Obama. There is an extraordinary number of vacation and golf days in this man’s schedule and an extraordinary number of campaign days in this man’s schedule, but I have no problem with him taking a vacation. But a $4 million vacation is a little over the top. And that’s just this vacation,” Glenn said.

Beverly Perdue: The Ultimate Hypocrite

Justice Appointment Will Be Last Act of Rudderless Governor

 Sen. Thom Goolsby 

Perdue Poised to Violate Her Order

If Governor Perdue stays on her current course, you will find her picture beside the word “hypocrite” in any dictionary. Currently, she is poised to violate her own Executive Order Number 86 that deals with judicial appointments.

The lame-duck and soon to be ex-governor claimed in her executive order that “a fair, impartial, independent, highly qualified, and diverse judiciary is essential to ensuring justice….” This statement is true and well-reasoned. She went on to write, “It is my belief that the state of North Carolina can best achieve this goal by establishing a judicial screening commission….” These words are now coming back to haunt this partisan, career politician.

Justice Appointment Quandary

A recent announcement by Justice Patricia A. Timmons-Goodson that she will retire from the North Carolina Supreme Court on December 17 has placed the Perdue Administration into its last quandary.  If she follows her own executive order, the Judicial Nominating Commission that she created has already told her that it will have no nominees ready for appointment before she leaves office.

This means that her successor, Republican Governor-Elect Pat McCrory, will have the opportunity to appoint a replacement for Timmons-Goodson, the outgoing liberal Democrat Supreme Court justice. McCrory is not bound by Perdue’s executive order and should not be expected to abide by it. If this scenario takes place, the most likely result would be the appointment of a conservative to the high court.  However, Perdue could violate her own order and make the appointment herself. If you are a gambler, don’t put two cents on the side that Perdue will obey Executive Order Number 86 and not appoint a left-leaning Democrat to the Supreme Court.

Important History Lesson

A short history lesson is necessary to understand how we arrived at this point. Article IV, Section 16 of the NC Constitution requires that judges and justices “shall be elected by the qualified voters.” These contests were partisan until a curious thing started occurring in the 1990s — Republicans began winning judicial races. Once Democrats saw that voters favored conservatives on their courts, the Democrat-controlled General Assembly quickly made the races “nonpartisan.” This way, voters wouldn’t know the party affiliation of judicial candidates and Democrats could continue to get elected. With their status quo maintained for the most part, Democrats let things be.

Move forward to 2010, when Republicans unexpectedly won both chambers of the General Assembly for the first time in well over a century. All of a sudden, the nonpartisan election of judicial officials was not enough. The public was apparently deemed too unworthy or ignorant to elect judges and justices. Now, Democrats demanded that special commissions be instituted to nominate judicial officials. Republicans, far from jumping on the Democrat bandwagon, filed legislation and actually began to call for going back to the original way of electing judges by political party. These actions prompted Perdue to establish her soon-to-be infamous Executive Order Number 86.

Choice Will Show Hypocrisy

In the end, Perdue can do what she desires and violate her own executive order.  She is the Governor until January 5. However, there will be consequences to her actions. By appointing a justice without going through the process she established, she will highlight the final and worst act of hypocrisy on the part of Democrats when it comes to the selection of judicial officials.

Power to the People

Politics is never pretty. Everyone wants good judges and justices, free from partisanship, but taking the vote from the people, setting up selection commissions and removing labels is not the answer.  The drafters of our Constitution deserve more credit than the Democrats are giving them.  As our state’s founding document, revised in 1971, acknowledges, “All political power is vested in and derived from the people; all government of right originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole.”

If we believe this lofty statement, what’s so bad about continuing to give the people the right to choose their officials in the judicial branch of government? To quote Winston Churchill, “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried.”

Thom Goolsby is a state senator, practicing attorney and law professor.  He is senate co-chair of the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety.


Here’s the latest on the Ledford-ALE scandal.  Don’t you just love it when the democrats fight themselves!!

Former Madison sheriff Ledford wants audit shelved  (7-20-12)

The head of state Alcohol Law Enforcement is trying to force the Office of State Auditor to keep quiet about its investigation of his use of his state vehicle.

State Auditor Beth Wood was handed a cease-and-desist letter from attorneys for ALE Director John Ledford moments before she testified before a legislative committee Wednesday about the investigation and what Wood said were Ledford’s efforts to block it.

The letter asks that Wood remove the audit and a video in which she describes its findings from the Office of State Auditor website, saying they “make false allegations/conclusions that constitute libel and/or slander.”

Wood went ahead with her testimony. Her spokesman, Dennis Patterson, said the office “absolutely” stands behind the audit findings and has no plans to put the audit report under wraps.

On Thursday, committee Chairwoman Rep. Julia Howard, R-Davie, called Ledford’s move “garbage.”

“That’s fifth-grade games, not the kind of conduct that you expect from professionals working for the state. He’s an embarrassment to the state of North Carolina,” Howard said.

The step by the former Madison County sheriff is so unusual that it has brought even more attention to the June 19 audit.

The audit says that Ledford and his deputy director, Allen Page, did not keep adequate records to show that their trips using state cars between Raleigh and the Asheville area, where both live, were for state business.

It found that 35 percent of the purchases Ledford made with his state-issued gas purchase card were in the western part of the state from January 2010 to September 2011. ALE has nine district offices, one of which is in Asheville.

It also says top officials at ALE and in the Department of Public Safety, which ALE is a part of, took several steps apparently aimed at slowing or stopping the investigation.

That included Ledford and Page not showing up for scheduled interviews, filing a complaint with Wood against her lead investigator on the case and Ledford initially instructing the head of the Asheville ALE office not to talk to an investigator.

Ledford and Page also sought access to personnel records of those investigating the issue.

“They wanted to investigate the investigators that were investigating them,” Wood told the Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee during her testimony Wednesday.

Stephen Lindsay, a Fairview attorney representing Ledford, said Thursday, “We dispute categorically that we have done anything wrong.”

The fact that Ledford bought some gas for his state vehicle in the western part of the state — the audit does not say exactly where — proves nothing since Ledford’s job takes him around the state, Lindsay said.

The investigation is a personnel matter that should be kept private, he said.

“It appears that at some point in time, (the investigation) became a witch hunt,” Lindsay said. “Now you’ve got an auditor taking potshots at (Ledford) in a setting where he really can’t respond, and it’s a personnel matter. It just seems to me it really needs to stop.”

He disputed Wood’s contention that officials tried to frustrate the investigation.

“It was clear that what was said was, Tell us what you need,” he said.

“I don’t see how that constitutes interfering with an investigation in any way.”

Lindsay said he is being paid by Ledford individually, not from state funds.

He does not represent Page.

Reuben Young, secretary of the Department of Public Safety, wrote June 5 in response to a draft audit that department officials “provided ready access” to information once auditors showed they had legal authority to receive it.

He said auditors did not prove Ledford and Page violated state policies and that Wood’s recommendation of disciplinary action against them was “manifestly inappropriate.”

A department spokeswoman on Thursday said the department has no comment beyond the letter. Ledford could not be reached for comment.

Patterson said Wood’s ability to disseminate the audit is “long established in law.”

Howard’s committee is supervising a staff investigation of personal use of state vehicles by law enforcement agencies across state government.

The veteran legislator could not remember a similar effort by a state employment to quash an audit.

Ledford, she said, is “wrong. If he worked for me, I would have fired him last night.”



Click on this like to get the latest news!!! 

Attorney Lindsay is a local Criminal Defense Lawyer.

How long before Larry Leake is in the middle of this mess??

Review critical of NC ALE chief won’t be quashed
July 19, 2012 19:32 GMT


RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina State Auditor Beth Wood will continue distributing a report critical of the state Alcohol Law Enforcement Division chief that details what it called attempts to thwart her investigation.

A lawyer for Wood’s office responded Thursday to a cease-and-desist letter signed by attorneys representing ALE Director John Ledford and given to Wood on Wednesday before she talked to lawmakers about last month’s review.

One attorney for Ledford says the review crossed the line by accusing him and other officials of interfering with the probe. But auditor’s lawyer Tim Hoegemeyer said the report was completed in accordance with state law and the people investigated weren’t identified by name.

The audit determined Ledford and his lieutenant used a government car and public funds to commute weekly from the mountains to Raleigh.

Information from: The News & Observer,

NC law officer wants audit’s distribution curbed
July 19, 2012 14:22 GMT


RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The leader of a North Carolina law enforcement agency wants to keep State Auditor Beth Wood from distributing further a blistering review that found he and his lieutenant used a government car and public funds to commute weekly from the mountains to Raleigh.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reported ( ) that Wood was given a letter Wednesday, signed by attorneys representing Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement Director John Ledford. Ledford’s attorney says the review crossed the line when Wood’s office accused Ledford and other division officials of interfering with the investigation.

The review determined Ledford and deputy director Allen Page routinely used state gas cards to make purchases near their homes.

Wood presented the audit findings to a legislative panel Wednesday morning after receiving the letter.

Information from: The News & Observer,


Word on the street says John Ledford wants to come back to Madison and run for Sheriff again after Pat McCrory becomes the next Governor of NC.  John may come “home” sooner than that if he keeps this up!!

Click on this link to get the entire story.  Be sure to watch the video featuring State Auditor, Beth Wood that is located in the middle of the story.  It’s not enough that he’s making a six (6) figure salary!!


Here is the link to State Auditor, Beth Wood’s video press release on this matter:


From the WNC Republicans Social Network

“A Social Network for WNC Conservative Republicans & thruout North Carolina.”

The head of a state law enforcement agency used his government car and gas card to make his weekly commute from Raleigh to his home outside Asheville, a round trip of more than 500 miles, according to an audit.

Here is the State report:…
The blistering 14-page audit report issued Tuesday also says N.C. Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement director John Ledford repeatedly tried to block the investigation by the Office of the State Auditor and ordered his subordinates not to talk or provide requested records. Ledford was often accompanied on the long drive by his hand-picked deputy director for operations, Allen Page, who lives near him.The report says records showed Ledford and Page routinely used their state gas cards to purchase gas at locations near their homes, including purchases made on weekends. During one period in 2010 examined by the auditors, 11 of the 19 gas purchases made on Ledford’s state-issued card were made in western North Carolina.
Ledford, whose job is based in Raleigh, claimed he had an official business reasons for his frequent weekend trips to the mountains, but provided insufficient documentation to support that claim, according to the audit. State regulations forbid employees to use state cars for commuting or other personal travel.

State Auditor Beth Wood said Ledford, Page and others tried to obstruct her investigation by withholding documents, making misleading statements and telling witnesses not to cooperate.

Wood said Ledford and Page also tried to retaliate against those conducting the probe by lodging complaints and demanding to see the personnel files of the auditor’s staff examining their conduct. She said the audit was triggered by a tip called in to her agency’s fraud, waste and abuse hotline.

“Their use of the state-owned vehicles appears abusive and we recommend that the department consider disciplinary action against the director and the deputy director,” Wood said in a video posted on her agency’s website.

State law requires that the auditor have ready access to government employees. The law makes it a misdemeanor for someone to interfere “with the performance of any audit, special review, or investigation, or to hinder or obstruct the State Auditor or the State Auditor’s designated representatives in the performance of their duties.”

The former sheriff of Madison County, Ledford was appointed by Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue in 2009 to lead the ALE after his predecessor retired following a scandal involving missing guns and questionable spending. With about 100 full-time agents, the agency’s primary responsibility is to enforce state laws on the purchase and sale of alcoholic beverages.

A request by the Associated Press to Perdue’s office seeking comment from the governor was declined.

Ledford also declined to comment, according to Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Patty McQuillan.

In a letter included with the audit report, Public Safety Secretary Reuben F. Young rejected the auditor’s findings and denied his agency had attempted to obstruct the investigation. The department, which includes ALE, was simply trying to be judicious in the release of information protected by state personnel privacy restrictions, Young wrote.

“During the course of investigation, it became increasingly clear that the inquiry was more focused on the employees than the processes,” Young wrote.

As for the auditor’s conclusion Ledford and Page couldn’t provide a legitimate business purpose for the weekly trips, Young said it was not the responsibility of the state employees to disprove allegations made to the auditor’s hotline.

“Given that your investigation failed to substantiate any violation by our employees of state law or policy with regard to the use of state-owned vehicles, your recommendation that we consider taking appropriate disciplinary action against the director and deputy director is manifestly inappropriate.”

However, absent from the secretary’s statement was any assurance that Ledford and Page had not been using state vehicles improperly or indication the department will perform its own review of their conduct.

A request to interview Young was rebuffed by McQuillan, who said the department’s only response to the audit would be the secretary’s letter.

Ledford’s state salary is $109,355 a year, while Page makes $95,436.


Early Politics Madison County by Ralph Eubanks via www.TheExaminer.Com

We all know Larry Leake is currently the Chairman of the State Board of Elections.  What else do we know about him?

In 1979, Larry was sent to Raleigh, with Governor Hunt’s blessings to fill the seat of a State Senator. Larry had recently been arrested for making obscene phone calls to a 15 year old girl. He pleaded “no contest” to the charge and with information from various old newspapers, talking with some of the old timers in Madison and Buncombe Counties and a former state senator, it was discovered that A.E Leake, was the father of Larry Leake, presently Chairman of the North Carolina State Board of Elections and a former State Senator.  Mr. A.E. Leake was the known “boss” of Madison County in the 1940-1970 era. Among other positions he held, he was chairman of the Madison County Board of Elections and president of the Young Democratic Club. He ran the county along with the Ponder brothers, E.Y. and Zeno and their henchmen.

E.Y. Ponder was sheriff for about 30 years and crime of all kinds from prostitution to killings to perjury to voter fraud was rampant. No one bucked the system without being burned out, killed, stock poisoned or losing their jobs.

After one election two men claimed that A.E. Leake gave them money to get people to vote a straight Democratic ticket. Four Teachers said they lost their jobs because they would not give money to the Democrat Election Fund. The State Board of Elections ordered Mr. A.E. Leake to be replaced, but a judge, believed to be Judge Nettles, placed a restraining order on them and Mr. Leake refused to turn over the voter registration.  Information is that Judge Nettles was a member of the “good old boys crowd”.

In 1987 as chairman of the Democrat Executive Committee, E.Y. Ponder submitted to the board of elections a list of 63 people that he was recommending for election workers and judges.  Of the 63, at least 15 had criminal records, from a convicted murderer to a fellow who had gotten caught stealing gas from a state shop where he worked, to a robber and a bootlegger to name just a few.  The list also included most of the ones who had been indicted the year before.

Even though the Republicans now held the majority on the Board of Elections, Larry was still their attorney.  The board tried to hire another attorney to replace Larry, but the Democrat Board of County Commissioners refused to pay anyone else.

At about this time Larry’s father A.E. Leake was in failing health and Larry took over as attorney for Zeno, E.Y. and their henchmen whenever they got into trouble.  Larry was now running Madison County, but he kept a low profile.

At sometime in the 1990’s he was married and his wife produced a child.  They have since “parted”

Governor Hunt thought enough of him and thought him sufficiently cleaned up to be socially acceptable.  He named Larry Leake as Chairman of the State Board of Elections.  Now everything he had learned from his father and in Madison County could be taken statewide.  After the 2000 elections, in a slander case involving the two candidates for Attorney General, Larry ruled against the Republican even though he (Larry) had made a monetary contribution to the Democrat and had not disclosed that fact.

Early in 2008, Larry’s State Board of Elections approved a man who had been convicted of a felony drug (cocaine) possession charge to be the Director of the Brunswick County Board of Elections.

This kind of conduct is only getting worse.
Ralph Eubanks

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