NC Representative Protects Campaign Donor's Contract at Schools' Expense
It has come to light that NC Rep. David Lewis of Dunn inserted last minute language into a General Assembly Bill to protect a state contract for campaign donor Rickie Day. On March 31, the House Regulatory Reform Committee signed off on a bill that would give the state control over the business of seizing and selling cars of repeat DWI offenders. It is estimated that the state could earn an extra $250,000 per year, much of which would go to public schools, by running these businesses. On April 1, Day donated $5,000 to Lewis's campaign fund, $100 shy of the max, and Lewis subsequently took actions to protect Day's towing contract .
Read more at the Charlotte Observer
State Rep. David Lewis of Dunn took significant steps in this year’s legislative session to protect the state contract of a friend and campaign donor.
For years, Martin Edwards & Associates of Linden, whose president is Rickie Day, has held a state contract to tow, store and sell vehicles seized from repeat driving while impaired offenders. Lewis’ actions this year – including tucking language into a technical corrections bill that became law in the final minutes of the session – ensured that contracts for those services would continue to be bid out to the private sector when they expire next year.
Lewis’ legislative actions went against a state agency that has expressed interest in taking over the program because state officials believe they can return more money to local schools – at least $250,000 a year – according to preliminary estimates. By law, some of the program’s proceeds go to school districts.
Day donated $5,000 to Lewis’ campaign earlier this year, $100 shy of the maximum contribution, according to reports filed with the N.C. State Board of Elections.
Lewis, a Republican who is chairman of the powerful House Rules committee, said his actions had nothing to do with Day’s contribution. He said he believes private contractors can do the work more effectively than the State Surplus Property Agency, part of the Department of Administration, which has considered taking the program in parts of the state, including Day’s territory.
“I am very suspect whenever anybody tells me that the government can perform services of this nature more efficiently than the private sector,” Lewis said in an interview. The agency hasn’t provided him a business plan proving the state can operate the program more cost-effectively than private contractors, he said.
Money for school districts across the state is at stake in the dispute over the seized vehicle contracts.
Aside from officials in two state agencies, at least one other Republican House member believes the Surplus Property Agency can return more money to schools.
“It doesn’t belong being contracted out,” said Rep. George Cleveland, an Onslow County Republican. “It costs the state money that should be going to education.”
Lewis acknowledged he protected Day’s state work.
“Throw me in the briar patch,” he said. “Accuse me of trying to fight for my folks. I’m OK with that.”