The Wake County Republican Party is jumping into the Jim Black land controversy by defending school board member Ron Margiotta's criticism of the deal and calling for an independent investigator to review the case.
In a press release sent late this afternoon, Wake GOP Chairman Claude E. Pope Jr. says that Wake Judge Donald Stephens' complaints about Margiotta were "extremely inappropriate." Pope fires some really harsh shots, saying the deal was a case of "the party in power cutting deals for its own fallen leader."
The Wake GOP has been really active in school affairs this election year. It has promised to back candidates who support neighborhood schools and complained about year-round school being open on Memorial Day.
Here's the GOP press release:
Wake County GOP Supports Wake County School Board Member Ron Margiotta’s Position on Black’s Land-for-Fine Deal
Lack of transparency and accountability kept Wake County Board of Education in the dark and cheated Wake taxpayers
RALEIGH, N.C., July 16, 2009 – Per recent news stories about disgraced former Democratic State House Speaker Jim Black’s land-for-fine deal, Wake County GOP Chairman Claude E. Pope, Jr. states that the Wake GOP fully supports Ron Margiotta’s position on the issue because he had every right to raise the serious concerns that he had about the backroom deal.
“The Wake GOP is truly concerned about the lack of accountability and transparency by all parties in this deal,” Pope said. “You would think that in a case that was all about corruption at the highest level of our state’s government, the judge, district attorney, and recipient school district administration would want to ensure that not even a hint of scandal would cloud the final settlement in this case. Instead, we have the party in power cutting deals for its own fallen leader, avoiding government accountability, allowing a man convicted of betraying the public trust to avoid personal responsibility of his crimes, and cheating the Wake County taxpayers out of some much-needed tax relief.
“Due to the size of the fine, we feel strongly that our duly-elected school board should have been made aware of the backroom negotiations between Wake County D.A. Colon Willoughby and Wake County School Board attorney Kris Gardner. We support Mr. Margiotta’s statements that Black should have been required to pay cash and that the land appraisal should have been done independently. Furthermore, Judge Stephens’ sharp-tongued remarks today toward Mr. Margiotta were extremely inappropriate,” said Pope.
Chairman Pope and the Wake GOP further:
demand that the parties publish the full appraisal so that Wake County taxpayers can assess the validity of the properties’ valuation; and
request the appointment of an independent investigator who will analyze the land value and make sure that the Wake County Board of Education receives the full $500,000 it is entitled to.