Friday, July 23, 2010

Turner letter: 'Blatant disregard' of orders

The N.C. Department of Corrections approved of Warren Turner's "secondary employment" as a city councilman, with this caveat:

He could not be called off his duties as a probation officer during work hours for city duties.

In his termination letter released today, the state cited numerous examples of Turner's "blatant disregard" of that order.

The state based part of its investigation on phone records in which Turner apparently conducted hours of city business while on the clock.

"During your scheduled work hours for April 2010, you made or received 308 phone calls on your secondary employment cell phone from the City of Charlotte. These calls totaled 2040 minutes, or 34 hours, and included calls to known City of Charlotte officials or employees."

The nine-page letter also details a "falsification" by Turner in the case of a probationer, and "serious deficiencies" in his work performance.

Click here to read the letter.

- Doug Miller

Thursday, July 22, 2010

N.C. ABC boards meet – in S.C.

The association for North Carolina ABC boards just wrapped up its summer conference, which it chose to hold in South Carolina, our colleague Ben Niolet writes today in the N&O's Under the Dome blog.

He writes:
The N.C. Association of ABC Boards conference was held at the Marriott Grande Dunes Hotel in Myrtle Beach. There were sessions on ethics and the legislative outlook for the state's alcohol laws.

There was also a session on handling the news media, although its hard to say whether that session included any advice about sending state dollars out of state for a long weekend conference. The conference wrapped upon the same day Gov. Bev Perdue signed into law a bill meant to curb abuses and conflicts of interest by local boards.

Now there's nothing illegal about having a conference out of state, but it doesn't sound great either. The association has received the message on its out of state events. The contract for the most recent conference was signed two years ago and would have been expensive to break.

"We've taken a lot of criticism on that," said Joe Wall, executive director of the N.C. Association of ABC Boards. "We're not going to be beat up on that anymore because we're not going to do that anymore."

This isn't the first time the conference has gotten less than positive attention. In 2007, news reports noted a conference, then held in Asheville, featured lots of drinks and subsidized golf outings provided by liquor companies.

Wall said the conference was held at Myrtle Beach because there just aren't any hotels in the state that could accommodate the whole group at a time. A previous conference at Wrightsville had the group split between a couple hotels.

"I think the question somebody should be asking the governor and our travel — the people that are promoting travel in North Carolina — is why we don't have a first-rate modern hotel on the coast somewhere in North Carolina that can handle groups of 300 or 400," Wall said.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Watch the full Shirley Sherrod speech

The Obama administration is scrambling to explain why it fired a woman whom conservatives accused of racism without waiting to find out whether the accusation was true.

The administration says it will reconsider the firing now that the facts show the accusation against Shirley Sherrod was a smear, such as comments from a white farmer who says the black official helped him and comments from her that were left out of a selectively edited video.

Here is the full video of Sherrod's speech, shot by the local NAACP unit that hosted her in March. What do you think?

The al-Qaida magazine said to be edited by Charlotte blogger

A former Central Piedmont Community College student who started a blog that promoted his jihadist views is thought to be the top editor of Inspire, an online magazine designed as a recruiting tool for al-Qaida, the Observer's Jim Morrill reports today.

Intelligence sources told national news organizations that they believe Samir Khan, thought to be about 24, edits Inspire. Attempts to reach Khan on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

The website for Public Intelligence -- which describes itself as "an international consortium of independent researchers who wish to aggregate and defend public information while maintaining its accessibility around the globe" -- posted what it says is an issue of Inspire. The authenticity of the document, the site warns, "should be deeply scrutinized."

Click on one of the images below to see larger versions of some of the pages from that document.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Judge: Medicine, steroids 'severely impacted me'

Mecklenburg District Judge John Totten said in a statement he is battling a life-threatening illness, and medications affected him when he made inappropriate comments to associates.

N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Sarah Parker, in an order dated July 15, rescinded the judge's March suspension. Totten reported back to work today.

Here is the judge's statement:

July 18,2010
Statement by
John Totten
District Court Judge
Mecklenburg County

In March, Supreme Court Justice Sarah Parker temporarily suspended me from my duties as District Court Judge as a result of inappropriate comments I made to some of my associates. They rightfully found my remarks offensive and I deeply regret having made those comments. Tomorrow I am returning to my duties as District Court Judge and can assure you that my future conduct will be above reproach.

In an April article, The Charlotte Observer wrote as follows:

Sources have said that Totten has been ill in recent months. He had been on medical leave from late October until he was allowed to return for half days in early January, a court official said. He has held court only seven days since going on medical leave, the court official said. Totten has never been publicly reprimanded and has never had formal charges filed against him.

All this is true, and let me provide additional details.

Since October, 2009 I have been battling Wegener's Granulomatosis, a life-threatening illness affecting lungs, kidneys and blood. I am thankful that with the aid of great doctors, chemotherapy, and high doses of steroids and other medications, I have made substantial progress.

Some of the effects of Wegener's disease have included severe inflammatory arthritis, anemia, damage to blood and kidneys and marked, significant mood swings. My doctors do believe a combination of medications and high doses of steroids severely impacted me during the period when the inapproppriate comments were made.

My doctors have recommended I return to work on a part-time schedule with the expectation that I will be able to return to the bench on a full-time basis in a month or so. I am grateful to the voters of Mecklenburg County for giving me the high honor of serving as District Judge, and I look forward to returning to work. I will exercise the same pfrofessionalism that I have always exhibited on the bench and, as I stated before, my conduct off the bench going forward will be above reproach.

I also express my deepest appreciation to friends and associates who have been so supportive during my illness and have helped see me through the trauma and embarassment of my temporary suspension.

John Totten

- Doug Miller

Thursday, July 15, 2010

EpiCentre hit with foreclosure action

Lenders have filed a foreclosure action against Afshin Ghazi's EpiCentre, Charlotte's uptown retail and entertainment complex.

"Unfortunately, we have not been able to extend the existing loan," Ghazi said in a statement this afternoon.

Click here to read the statement.

Ghazi said the issues "will not in any way affect the EpiCentre or its operations, security or quality."

- Doug Miller

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Read trooper's texts to his secretary

Text messages sent by one of the state's highest-ranking state troopers to his secretary suggest he had a romantic relationship with the woman, whose husband is also a trooper.

Maj. Everett Clendenin, a 22-year veteran who had long served as the spokesman for the N.C. Highway Patrol, resigned last week. He sent more than 2,600 messages to the woman, Pamela Maynard, on his state-owned BlackBerryover the last three months.

The messages were sent during work hours and late at night, Michael Biesecker of The (Raleigh) News & Observer reports. Most had little to do with state business.

"Nobody knows about my little sugar bowl," Clendenin, who is married, wrote May 31 at 9:31 p.m. "I'm right beside you. Whispering. Mmmmmm. Yes- you like what I'm saying? :* Taking u all in."

The state Department of Crime Control and Public Safety released only the messages sent by Clendenin.

Sgt. Jeff Gordon, a spokesman for the N.C. Highway Patrol, said a legal review had determined that Maynard's messages were sent from a personal phone and therefore not subject to the state's public records law.

- Doug Miller