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Who was that masked man? Kenn Gardner! Twice!

This letter is too long for publication but too nice not to share:

This is a real letter from a real (nonpolitically strident) person, written late at night on July 4th.

l'd like to tell you about my day. The plan was to drive from my Apex home to Farmville for its Independence Day festivities. My 80+-year-old parents were to play in a pre-fireworks concert given by the Tar River Community Band from Greenville, where my folks live (mother, Helen, on euphonium and father, Stan, on trumpet). Left home about 4:30 (concert was at 7 p.m.) and was going around the southern part of the Raleigh Beltline when I heard a sudden clattering.

Fearing a broken belt, I pulled off the road as far as possible, popped the hood and looked at the engine. Nothing seemed amiss (to my admittedly untrained eye) so I started looking elsewhere as traffic whizzed by. Scanning the rear driver's side tire, my heart dropped as I spied the culprit: a 4-inch-long L-shaped metal hex-drive jammed solidly in the tread.

I instinctively yanked the offending tool out. I then watched in horror as the tire quickly exhaled all remaining vestiges of life. (Note to self: Get OFF the freeway before removing objects of large girth from a tire.) The now total flat precluded
any further driving, and I knew the long odds of finding a repair shop open late in the day on July 4th.

So as raindrops began to fall, I crankily started getting out my ridiculously radius-ed spare and chintzy jack and tools. As the rain and winds picked up, I donned my serendipitously packed raincoat, the hood of which shielded my eyes from the dozens of cars flying by on rain-slicked asphalt. Better not to see a potential death-mobile coming my way as I hopped repeatedly on the wrench to loosen the lug nuts.

As I was close to being done, a voice through the rain asked, "Do you need help with that?" I looked up and saw a well-dressed man standing there getting rain-soaked, his wife in the car. I accepted gratefully, as he, surely, could put more torque into the lug nuts than I.  He then helped lower the jack and throw the wounded tire into the car boot. The fellow said they had seen me struggling minutes earlier and had turned around to come back to help.

Out of the hundreds of drivers who passed me on a "nonwork" day, they were the only ones to stop and offer help. In the driving rain, I thanked him and his wife and told them my name. He replied that he was Kenn Gardner,  and, as an afterthought, added that he was running for Secretary of State. I laughingly assured him that he would have my vote and meant it.

This story gets better. After Mr. Gardner and his lovely wife drove off, leaving me seemingly in the pink, in dismay I realized that 25 minutes of using flashers had rendered my apparently feeble battery useless. Very cranky now. After many minutes of debating whom to call, I heard a tap on the window, and it's Kenn Gardner again, wanting to know what the problem is now? (Perhaps he and his wife were running circuits around the Beltline that day helping other stranded, sodden motorists? Unlikely, but, if so, God bless 'em!)

I sheepishly told him, and he offered jumper cables and motor life. With his wife's assist, we strapped the engines together in the rain, and with a Frankensteinian jolt, my car roared back to life. After I thanked them both profusely, they waited for
me to pull onto the road ahead of them.

Now behind schedule, I scoot off to Farmville, arriving just before showtime. The now-absent rains have broken the heat, the concert is glorious and the fireworks after are suitably spectacular. A fine ending to a day trip of shaky origin.

We hear often when politicians have done wrong, either illegal or merely unethical acts. It doesn't make the news much when they do good things. It would be presumptuous for me to feign knowing exactly what skill-sets make up the perfect Secretary of State candidate. I do, however, know what kind of human being I like to see in a leadership position for our great state. I met one today.

Jeri Walter


Share Our Shoes founder Jennifer Pierce appeals charity shutdown, claims mistreatment

Jennifer Pierce, the founder of Share Our Shoes, has filed an appeal to restore the Raleigh shoe charity's state license to operate as a tax-exempt nonprofit.

Pierce, in a petition filed last week with the state Office of Administrative Hearings, contends the N.C. Secretary of State's office wrongfully pulled the nonprofit's license earlier this month. She said she submitted information proving that there was no misspending, and that she had reimbursed the charity for personal expenditures she made.

She also alleges in the petition that an investigator with the Secretary of State's office required her to take an test for alcohol use after she visited the office to deliver documents -- a test that she says showed no alcohol in her system -- and that he had her investigated by child protective services without proper justification.

George Jeter, a spokesman for the Secretary of State's office, said officials there would have no comment while the case is being appealed. The office revoked Share Our Shoes' license after determining that Pierce could not adequately document tens of thousands of dollars in expenditures ranging from meals to personal grooming that appeared to have little to do with the charity's stated mission.




Share Our Shoes founder Jennifer Pierce steps down


Jennifer Pierce, the founder and president of the beleaguered charity Share Our Shoes, says she has left the organization just as state officials are weighing whether it should keep its operating license.

Pierce sent an email to reporters late Wednesday saying that she had turned over various access codes and the keys to the Raleigh charity's office and car to a former attorney for the charity. She requested that the items go to the charity's director, Elvia Gerdes, who lives in Knightdale.
"I would like you to know that I have answered the (N.C.) Secretary of State to the best of my ability," Pierce said in the email. "I founded SOS, I care deeply about its mission, and I hope to see it continue."
The Secretary of State's office recently ordered Pierce to produce numerous financial and operational records to help explain tens of thousands of dollars in spending that did not appear to have any connection to the charity's mission of collecting and delivering used shoes to the needy here and abroad. Pierce said she has tried to comply with the order to the best of her abilities, but she acknowledged that some of the spending was for personal items and services that she later reimbursed.
Pierce said in a brief interview that she learned this week Gerdes had fired her. Gerdes said in an interview she fired Pierce in December after she showed up at Gerdes' home late and woke her up. But Gerdes said Pierce refused to be fired.
By then, news reports had come out raising questions about the charity's operations and the state was investigating. WNCN first reported about a North Raleigh church that was concerned its donated shoes and money had yet to be used to bring shoes to Haiti, then WTVD followed up with a report that the charity was selling some of the shoes and keeping the proceeds.
Pierce said shipping issues slowed the church's donations from reaching Haiti, and she later reported they had been shipped. She said the charity sells some shoes to pay for operating expenses, and that was stated in its business plan filed with the state. That is standard practice for charities that collect clothes and other goods for the poor.
Gerdes, 68, said she became director several months ago after the charity's board said Pierce could no longer serve in that position. Gerdes said Pierce gave her little to do and did not pay her.
Today, Gerdes said she is the sole person with the charity. The board, which saw numerous members come and go during the charity's two-year history, has all resigned in the wake of the financial mess.
"I'm so sorry for all of the people that believed and supported Share Our Shoes for so long," Gerdes said. "If we are allowed to operate by the state we will rebuild it into something people can be proud of."

E*Trade to pay $25k fine as part of settlement over sale of auction rate securities

E*Trade Securities will pay a $25,000 civil penalty under a settlement reached with the state over auction rate securities it sold to North Carolina investors.

The settlement, announced by the Secretary of State’s Office today, required E*Trade to show the state that it had made investors "whole," meaning they had reached some form of satisfactory deal with them.

E*Trade will also reimburse the state $400,000 for investigation costs related to the case.

Auction rate securities were often marketed to investors as short-term investments that could easily be sold for cash on short notice.

But market for the products disappeared in early 2008, leaving investors trapped holding products that could not be resold.

When the markets froze, E*Trade had at least 47 North Carolina investors holding roughly $8,375,000 in ARS products.

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