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Debra Goldman speaks out on 2010 police report and Beth Wood

Just a day before the election, Wake County school board member Debra Goldman held a press conference this morning to respond to the 2010 police report and to attack her opponent for state auditor, Democratic incumbent Beth Wood.

The official purpose of the meeting was for Goldman to share with the electronic media the recordings she had had played to the N&O on Oct. 27. While the news conference means the questions about the 2010 report will get more coverage today, it means that Goldman is also guaranteed that there will be coverage of her attacks on Wood.

Goldman said she wanted to show "that I'm not a caricature that some members of the press have tried to color me as, that I am a real person."

New PPP poll has Debra Goldman trending down and John Tedesco trending up

A new poll out today shows changing political fortunes for two Wake County school board members running for statewide office.

Democratic pollster Public Policy Policy says that State Auditor Beth Wood, the Democratic incumbent, is now leading Wake County school board member Debra Goldman, the Republican challenger, 45-38. In a previous poll before the recent publicity about Goldman's personal life, Wood was leading 40-36.

"Perhaps most telling in the Triangle, where this has received the largest amount of attention, Wood leads Goldman by an astounding 65/25 margin," according to the PPP press release. "If the story continues to makes its way out to the rest of the state Goldman is heading for a double digit defeat."

In another Council of State race of note, State Schools Superintendent June Atkinson's lead over Wake County school board member John Tedesco has shrunk to 42-40. A month ago, Atkinson, a Democrat, had a 44-34 lead over Tedesco, a Republican.

Pat McCrory praises Beth Wood and reserves "final decision" on Debra Goldman for auditor's position

Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory sounded more tonight like he was backing Beth Wood, the Democratic incumbent state auditor, than Debra Goldman, the GOP nominee.

When asked at tonight's debate if he still supported Goldman, McCrory said "it's extremely unfair to make a final decision based upon allegations which I don't have much information on." Goldman has been embroiled in a recent controversy over whether she had an affair with fellow Wake County school board member Chris Malone, a GOP candidate for the District 35 state House seat.

Unsolicited, McCrory went on to praise Wood, saying "she's done a good job." McCrory also said Wood "was the only member of the Council of State who did stand up to the broken government of both the Easley and Perdue administrations."

1351202602 Pat McCrory praises Beth Wood and reserves "final decision" on Debra Goldman for auditor's position The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

SBI notified after DOT transit audit criticizes rural vanpool program

A new state audit finds "gross mismanagement" of a rural vanpool program by the state DOT public transportation division, and the findings have been referred to the State Bureau of Investigation for possible action.

The audit report says that:

DOT allowed a Raleigh-Durham area company, 2Plus Inc., to operate the vanpool program with 38 DOT-owned vans for six years without a contract. The company received $4.3 million to operate the program for 11 years.

DOT vans were used to transport South Carolina residents to jobs in North Carolina.

An Outer Banks resort used DOT vans to shuttle its nonresident alien workers between the resort property and local housing.

2Plus billed DOT for $163,272 for personal mileage fees, backup fees and insurance deductibles "that appeared excessive or unreasonable." DOT did not review 2Plus invoices to make sure it paid only for reasonable expenses.

Miriam S. Perry, who retired in December as public transportation division director, personally managed the 2Plus contract, but she did not personally manage other DOT contracts.

Beth A. Wood, the state auditor, said her findings and Perry's role in personally managing the vanpool contract would be referred to the SBI.

Gene Conti, the DOT secretary, today named Teresa Hart the new director of the public transportation division.  Hart, a 26-year DOT veteran and a registered professional engineer, recently served as unit head and project planning engineer for DOT's Project Development and Environmental Analysis Branch.

New Wake County school board member Susan Evans raised $43,386 during election campaign

New Wake County school board member Susan Evans raised more than $40,000 in her successful bid to unseat incumbent Ron Margiotta,

In her final campaign report filed today, Evans reported raising $43,386.53 and spending $39.077.16. Margiotta hasn't filed his final report yet, but he had reported raising $52,748.31 as of Sept. 26.

But the funding gap between Evans, a Democrat, and Margiotta, a Republican, is a lot narrower considering all the outside money that was poured into the District 8 race.

State audit critical of retired Pitt-Greenville airport chief's pay

A state audit last week confirmed concerns first raised when we reported that former Pitt-Greenville Airport Authority Chief James Turcotte held the seventh-highest pension among all state and local retirees. He's now receiving more than $173,000 a year because his base salary was boosted by several enhancements that the authority paid little or no attention to during much of his tenure.

The audit reports that Turcotte boosted his pay regularly without board approval and that his total compensation was not being provided to the board. For example, from 2005 to 2009, Turcotte received more than $71,000 for unused vacation time without going to the board for approval.

The audit found that in Turcotte's final full year of employment, he received more than $283,000 in pay -- at least $68,000 more than the heads of the much larger airports in Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham.

The airport board disputed some findings, but agreed that it should seek reimbursement of $16,000 in "limbo leave" that Turcotte had inappropriately received. The leave consisted of vacation time that Turcotte carried over from previous years.

We had reported Turcotte's pension as part of our reports last year that looked into the state's personnel law, which at the time was among the most secretive in the nation. Lawmakers removed some of those restrictions, allowing Greenville resident Terry Boardman to query the board about Turcotte's pay history. The board's report, showing tens of thousands of dollars in additional pay that had not been disclosed to the full board, triggered the state audit.

Boardman, an East Carolina University instructor, said in an email message that he has now asked the Attorney General's office to investigate. He said the way Turcotte boosted his compensation in his final years, and thereby increased his pension, needs to be looked at for possible fraud.

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