After State Senator Howard Lee was defeated for reelection in 2003 the governor appointed him to the Board of Education. Serving on the Board is an unpaid position and the Board only meets two days a month. But The News and Observer (8/14/06) reports Senator Lee also spends “a couple of days a week” on the road doing Board business.
Last year, Senator Lee drove his own car 26,000 miles on State Board of Education business and he was reimbursed by the state. This year – at Lee’s request – the Department of Public Instruction rented a car for him from a car rental agency – like Hertz or Avis – for $1700 to $1900 a month. That’s more than three times it would have cost the state to simply reimburse Lee for his mileage. And it’s more – a lot more – than the cost of leasing a car from a dealership. After all, according to the ads in the newspaper, you can lease a new Mercedes Sedan for $700 to $800 per month.
But that’s not the whole story.
Governor Easley also appointed former Senator Lee to the Board of the State Utilities Commission. That’s a full-time job. It pays $115,000 a year. So, how, in addition to his full-time work at the Utilities Commission is Senator Lee – by his own reckoning – spending “a couple of days a week” traveling for the Department of Public Instruction?
This is an example of the decline in “ethics” in state government. Government has been a playground for powerful Democratic politicians and ethics don’t seem to matter (unless you get caught).
And what happens when you do get caught?
After state VIP’s spent $30,000 of taxpayers’ money to sail legislators around Beaufort Harbor in a state ferry to see the tall ships, the governor gave them a “good stiff reprimand.” In Senator Lee’s case he didn’t even issue a reprimand. You have to wonder if the Democrats are really serious about “cleaning up” state government.
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