Jun 142008



ou maybe aware of the rumored FBI investigation into Union County, which evidently began after the Charlotte Observer revelation (Charlotte Observer, Mar. 14, 2007: Union Co. official aided sewer request) of Commissioner Mills allegedly arranging ‘special’ sewer access for large campaign contributors. Well, its much more than a rumor now.

Quoted from the March 2007 story:

Mills’ intervention is significant not only because of his ties to the developers, but because fast-growing western Union County is quickly using up its sewer capacity. Fair distribution of the limited capacity is a looming issue for county officials.

With Mills’ encouragement, county staff gave developers Dennis Moser and Dean Harrell letters approving a certain amount of sewer capacity for projects on U.S. 74.

Moser said he had trouble obtaining “accessibility letters,” required for development, before turning to Mills. Once he got the letters, county staff permitted Moser to edit them specifying the capacity his projects needed.

Here is a case of a developer/campaign contributor specifying just how much of taxpayer built sewer capacity he wants, in fact, he is permitted to edit the permit.

Now, more than a year later, the law-firm of Wyatt and Blake, LLP, specialist in representing clients under FBI Investigation, has been retained to represent ‘Republican’ Commissioners Baucom, Mills and Pressley. According to an article published in the Observer today,(1) $73,120 dollars has already been spent on these ‘personal’ lawyers

Charlotte Observer: Union County racking up legal bills

Quotes from the story:

If you’re going to go, go with the best,” Baucom said. “The FBI probe was not something to take lightly.”… …Baucom said the FBI was “fishing,” but he didn’t know specifically what they were after.

I find it hard to believe that the FBI is just ‘fishing’, as Mr. Baucom stated, but to quote a Yiddish proverb that says, ‘The fish stinks from its head’, we’ve certainly seen enough Board of Commissioners actions lately to prove this proverb applies.

“Go with the best”, says Mr. Baucom. As I said in an earlier post, when someone else is paying the bill, then of course, you can afford the best. The arrogance is breathtaking — this is the same commissioner trying to short change our schools and rob you of your voting rights!

FBI Investigations are criminal investigations, therefore it’s logical to assume that if Mr. Baucom, Mills and Pressley felt the need to retain attorneys, then they are either witnesses to, or the subjects of the investigation or perhaps a combination of both. I think it is also safe to assume that one doesn’t spent $73,120 if your just a witness.

I have a few questions:

  • Hypothetically, suppose the three commissioners are the subject of the investigation, then should taxpayers funds be used to pay for their legal defense?
  • We know attorneys have been hired for the FBI Investigation, should the subject Commissioners be allowed to make decisions regarding these expenditures? They voted for themselves up to $30,000 each of a legal expense budget. How would you feel if they gave themselves a $30,000 raise — in effect thats how it works.
  • If these Commissioners are under investigation or NOT, shouldn’t the FBI reveal the nature of the investigation, so as to assure Union County citizens as to the nature of these inquiries?
  • If any or all of the Commissioners involved are indicted, does the county have to sue to get it’s $73,120 dollars back?
  • Who is responsible to the citizens of Union County to make sure taxpayer funds are not being misused? The County Manager? or The County Attorney? or perhaps the State Attorney General? Who protects the taxpayers?

One final note, the FBI investigation into Union County is a separate issue from Mike Shalati’s suit against Union County and Commissioners Baucom, Mills and Pressley — most of the players are the same, however.

Just one more question.

Does FBI investigation make the Baucom, Mills and Pressley’s action to expand the board by hook or crook, a move to keep the their majority intact and the money flowing so taxpayers continue to fund their legal defense??

  1. June 14, 2008 []

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  4 Responses to “Taxpayers pay for Baucom, Mills and Pressley’s criminal lawyers”

  1. Have been rather taken the last few days by the talk of Tim Russert. I watched his program weekly and was a big fan. I was particularly taken by the way that those to be interviewed on Meet The Press did so with sort of a panic, of “Oh, heck!!’ They had the duel problem of going on and having their words and actions put before them in a courtroom fashion or not going on and risking the consequences of avoidance.
    Local vetting of the candidates is really almost impossible. We do not have most of the elements that would be required including a highly motivated and professional press, avenues of communication that are main line enough to grab watchers/listeners/readers, and a citizenry willing to do their part in keeping informed.
    The result has been very non-confrontational candidate forums and the sleezeball hits of people like Stony and the 2020 bunch. Mark D tries to offer a forum and does a good job, but it is far from being sufficient. 80% of the voters will probably never open this page.

    The recent county issues that have arisen have made a lot of people enter the fray in some way. In the end, the $600,000+ being thrown away by this board to protect their ability to operate above the law may be the best money they spend. If it leads us into what I will call “The New Union County” where citizens become informed and take part of the process, where ownership of the county is finally deeded to all its citizens, where candidates are vetted before they sit in those chairs, and where we build those local institutions that allow for that vetting; then we have some justification for it all.
    But, those sitting today should be held to all legal definitions of appropriate conduct and consequences for not doing so.
    I have really enjoyed sitting back and reading the entries of the many people who have come into this forum, but this forum must be only your starting place. I particularly enjoy those who bring some expertise that deepens our understanding of the issues. Without those of you with such knowledge, the rest of us are just spouting platitudes. The old Union Counties never lived up to their potential. We have consistently built perceived success as nothing more than the elevation of some elements of our combined makeup. Expertise and law have always been shunned in favor of some financial or social interest. I believed that Rogers, Kuehler, and Openshaw would elevate expertise and law, and so I have worked for them. But, even they must be watched as Tim Russert would do. You see now what happens when the culture is one of some being more deserving than others. It would be just as bad if the only thing that changed was who is special.

  2. Aubrey,

    Having also been a fan of Tim Russert, I admired not only his delight and interest in politics, but I also admired the manner in which he honored his hometown, his family and the acknowledgment of his working class roots. He had the ability to meet with presidents and popes and still hang out with “Big Russ” at the neighborhood pub.

    I have watched the coverage of his career and his life. The common thread seemed to be while he was placed in a position of power, he didn’t let go of his ability to be a decent human being. He kept his faith and honored his commitments. As someone observed, he was an authentic person. While he may have been very direct with those he interviewed, the methods he chose included a dose of respect.

    There are probably some other “Tim Russerts” out there. We just got to see one of the original on the screen, each week.

    You said, “But, even they must be watched as Tim Russert would do. You see now what happens when the culture is one of some being more deserving than others. It would be just as bad if the only thing that changed was who is special.”

    I think you have hit the nail on the head about the East vs the West issue. It isn’t as much about the geography but the perception of who is “more deserving” and who is “special”.

  3. Mark:

    As much as I find certain elements of this post to be very unpleasant, the voters of UC committed to these five people as our commissioners. We have to pay the freight regardless of how we individually voted. However, it is unsettling to see a commissioner talking about getting the best attorneys in a matter where the FBI is just fishing. Don’t we already pay for attorneys for the County? If so, where are they?

    This cannot be good for us.

  4. When Jim Black got in trouble with the fbi the state legislature refused to pay his legal bills, but I guess commissioners are above legislators…

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