Carolina Journal News Reports
Senate Rules Committee Chairman Tom Apodaca, left, listens to Pryor Gibson, an aide to Gov. Bev Perdue, answer questions about changes Gibson made to a Department of Transportation memo.
RALEIGH – Gov. Bev Perdue’s top legislative aide told a Senate committee on Thursday that altered letters which ended up saying the opposite of what a top ranking Department of Transportation official intended was a mistake resulting from a rushed attempt to fulfill lawmakers’ concerns over two proposed toll projects.
Pryor Gibson, Perdue’s aide who also is a former Democratic representative from Anson County, told the Senate Rules Committee that there was no intent to pressure staff members at the Department of Transportation into affixing the signature of Jim Trogdon on altered letters which said that planned funding was needed in this budget cycle for the Mid-Currituck Bridge on the Outer Banks and the Garden Parkway in Gaston and Mecklenburg counties.
“I was trying to solve one problem on one issue for a couple of legislators and I created another one,” Gibson said. He said he regretted the error.
Thursday's meeting was the third by the Senate Rules Committee that is conducting an inquiry on how two alteredletters ended up in legislators’ hands.
One letter, addressed to Sen. Stan White, D-Dare, suggested that the DOT needed $28 million for the Mid-Currituck Bridge as soon as possible. The other was a similar letter to Rep. Bill Current, R-Gaston, which said that the DOT needed $35 million for the Garden Parkway as soon as possible.
Trogdon previously had said the money would not be needed for either of the projects until the 2013-14 fiscal year.
The committee is scheduled to meet again Tuesday to decide if it wants to pursue the inquiry.
Following the meeting, two GOP senators indicated that they feel like information regarding the altered documents is cloudy.
“I still have serious questions,” said Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson. “I want to know who signed the letter, why they signed the letter, and were they pressured.”
Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, said he didn’t feel like anyone at DOT would sign the altered letter for Trogdon knowing his previous stance on funding for the toll projects unless they felt pressure.
Democrats on the committee suggested that no serious offense was committed. Sen. Dan Blue, D-Wake, noted that there was a process in place to affix Trogdon’s signature on letters.
“Nobody has committed forgery,” Blue said. “I’m trying to figure out what is the continuing issue here.”
Trogdon was not in Raleigh June 14, the date of the letters. On Wednesday, he told the committee that he did not sign the letters. An electronic signature was affixed to the letters.
Asked if he believed Gibson when he said that the signing was a mistake, Rabon responded, “I think if I were in his shoes, I would be saying the same thing.”
Gibson said the he’d gotten requests from both Current and White regarding the administration’s support for the toll projects. Gibson said he asked Trogdon to write a letter addressing their concerns.
That was that letter that members of Perdue’s staff altered.
Trogdon was not in his office the morning of June 14. He was in Charlotte participating in an exercise related to the National Guard’s role in the upcoming Democratic National Convention. Trogdon is the assistant adjutant general of the N.C. National Guard.
Gibson once referred to the changed letters as a “rush job” and said that he handles a lot of requests from legislators on a daily basis.
“When y’all are here, it’s like a zoo,” Gibson said.
Barry Smith is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.