DOT assistant testifies in Senate letter investigation
Updated: 06/27/2012 06:39 PM
By: Julie Fertig
RALEIGH -- A North Carolina Department of Transportation worker gave state senators a tearful apology for signing two letters that have become the center of an investigation.
The letters falsely told lawmakers funding is needed this year for two highway toll road projects.
During the final day of questioning in the investigation, senators interviewed two DOT workers and one of the governor's staffers about the mistake.
"I deeply regret applying Jim's signatures to these letters, especially since I knew he was not aware of the specifics of the change," said Vicki Stanley, an administrative assistant for DOT Chief Operating Officer Jim Trogdon.
Stanley told senators she put her boss' electronic signature on two letters. Trogdon was participating in a military training exercise and one of the governor's staffers, Pryor Gibson, told Stanley there was a tight deadline to get the letters to lawmakers.
"Although I did feel a sense of due to the time deadline and a heightened sense of responsibility, anytime the governor's office is involved, we want to be as responsive as we can," said Stanley. "I did not feel threatened or coerced at anytime. I take full responsibility for my part in this."
DOT Deputy Secretary Susan Coward admits she gave Stanley the approval to sign the letters.
"I took responsibility with my boss where I was at fault, apologized to him and my colleagues and I express the same to you today," said Coward.
Republican lawmakers interviewed Stanley and the others one-on-one, throwing out interrogation-style questions.
"We're just trying to get to the bottom of the letter to see where we're going to refer this or if we're going to refer this," said Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson
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Outraged Democrats pointed out it's not a courtroom hearing.
"These ladies coming over like they had committed some awful crime. They were just doing their job," said Sen. Dan Blue, D-Wake.
Despite the false information causing confusion, Democrats maintain it's not right to treat government workers like this.
"We would not tolerate, if they called us over to a court, we would not tolerate it," said Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe.
Gov. Bev Perdue's Deputy Chief of Staff Kevin McLaughlin told lawmakers he helped write the letters. McLaughlin said the governor was not involved and he did not intentionally include false information.
"Because that's not what was intended at the time. It was a clarification of what i saw as an open hole in this letter," said McLaughlin.
The committee will now consider what, if any, action should be taken.