Bogus assault on Michael Regan's potential conflicts

Talk about grabbing at straws:

In a letter obtained by the ABC11 I-Team, the State Ethics Commission confirms it found "the potential for a conflict of interest" pertaining to Michael Regan, the newly-appointed Secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality.

Specifically, the letter notes Regan worked for a law firm that provided environmental consulting and that he was directly involved with the Environmental Defense Fund, an environmental advocacy non-profit.

Really? You're all-of-a-sudden concerned about law firms, when at least 1/3 of the sitting lawmakers in the NCGA are employed at such before/during/after their terms? Michael Regan spent 10 years at the EPA and 8 years with EDF, neither of which involved "profit margins" or any other monetary considerations, other than securing funding for needed projects or advocacy. One of his predecessors (John Skvarla), however, was a totally different story. Skvarla was the CEO of a private company whose only revenues came from mitigating environmental damage. Do I need to repeat that? It was in the best interests of Restoration Systems that water quality *not* improve, and that wetlands continue to be plowed under by developers, so the company could get contracts to "restore" them. Like they did a few months after John Skvarla took the helm at NC DENR:

Six months after taking over as North Carolina's top environmental regulator, John Skvarla's former company won a $1.2 million contract from the agency he now leads.

Skvarla left his position as Restoration Systems' chief executive officer in January to join Gov. Pat McCrory's cabinet, and DENR spokesperson Drew Elliot says Skvarla took ethics measures to remove himself from that potential conflict on advice from the McCrory administration.

"Any time a public official has a previous interest in something that he regulates, there's going to be a perception of a conflict of interest, and we didn't want even that perception," Elliot said.

Elliot said Skvarla sought and followed a State Ethics Commission opinion citing a "potential for a conflict," sending out a memo to staff removing himself from contract decisions. As laid out in Skvarla's economic interest statement, a law firm manages his Restoration Systems financial interest in a blind trust.

First of all, a "blind trust" that you know what company stocks are contained in is not a blind trust, you just can't go in there and fiddle with it. You can still take steps to strengthen those particular stocks, which negates the effort at concealing what's there. Second, when you tell your employees (who are beholden to you) that you can't act to help Company X because you own part of said company, you are basically telling the brown-nosers what you want for Christmas.

I get so frustrated over this ethics stuff. Trivialities are pursued while blatantly corrupt behavior is ignored, and it gives the whole process the stench of venality. And when that process rambles over someone like Michael Regan, we lose greatly.

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