HB 17

I am one of 1,200 employees caught up in McCrory's 'reclassification' of state employees as 'political appointees'.

In October of 2013 I was reclassified as a political appointee even though I managed no one and managed no ‘program of importance to the Governor’.

In December of that year I was fired two weeks before Christmas, without cause and without notice. I was paid 4 hours for my last full day of work.

And now, since McCrory lost, the Republicans in the General Assembly have introduced and will pass HB 17.

It cuts Cooper’s number of political appointees to 300 and gives McCrory appointees who have served at least 12 months the same rights as those with two years of service.

While reducing the number of appointees is good, protecting McCrory’s most recent appointees is not.

As Ned Barnett wrote in 'The Tale of North Carolina's 45 Million Dollar Seat Warmer', reclassification isn't just about party affiliation, it's also about "giving political appointees leeway to do whatever they want to cowed civil servants".

In other words, McCrory replaced the Perdue administration employees who refused to lie to you with his appointees who would.

Remember that when you drink your next glass of water or cross over that bridge.

The bitter irony is that in 2012 the Republicans tried to strip career status state employees (meaning a state employee with two years of service) of their vested right to contest whether or not they met the criteria for reclassification (important policy or management roles).

Roy Cooper and the state fought against my right to a hearing from 2013 to 2016 (when they lost in a Court of Appeals ruling).

Now, the Republicans want to protect McCrory's appointees by giving them access to the rights they, and Cooper, tried to deny me.

To quote Judge Deitz in his concurring opinion:

No. COA15-1013

DIETZ, Judge, concurring.

I agree with the majority that the plain language of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 126–5 permits Vincoli to contest whether his position properly could be designated exempt under the State Personnel Act. Indeed, the statutory language hardly could be clearer.

The title of Section 126–5 is “Employees subject to Chapter; exemptions.” The statute then states precisely which positions can, and cannot, be designated as exempt positions that are not subject to the provisions of the chapter.

Then, in subsection (h), the statute provides that “[i]n case of dispute as to whether an employee is subject to the provisions of this Chapter, the dispute shall be resolved as provided in Article 3 of Chapter 150B,” which is the portion of the General Statutes governing contested cases filed in OAH.

The rub, of course, is that the General Assembly recently repealed N.C. Gen. Stat. § 126–34.1(c), a more specific statutory provision authorizing employees to challenge their exempt designation in OAH.

If the general language of Section 126– 5(h) already permits employees to challenge their exempt designation in OAH, then the repeal of the more specific language in Section 126–34.1(c) was meaningless. Ordinarily, we do not interpret the law in a way that renders actions of the General Assembly meaningless. See Town of Pine Knoll Shores v. Evans, 331 N.C. 361, 366, 416 S.E.2d 4, 7 (1992).

But this is not an ordinary case. Vincoli argues that, if we interpret the repeal of Section 126–34.1(c) as depriving him of any opportunity to contest his exempt designation in OAH, it would violate his constitutional rights. Whether meritorious or not, his argument certainly is not frivolous.

And it is a long-standing principle of statutory construction that courts should “avoid an interpretation of a . . . statute that engenders constitutional issues if a reasonable alternative interpretation poses no constitutional question.” Gomez v. United States, 490 U.S. 858, 864 (1989).

Interpreting N.C. Gen. Stat. § 126–5(h) according to its plain meaning, notwithstanding the repeal of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 126–34.1(c), is a “reasonable alternative interpretation” of the statute. I therefore join the majority in reversing the trial court’s judgment.

Under the plain language of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 126–5(h), Vincoli and other employees like him can challenge their exempt designations in a contested case at OAH. As a result, Vincoli’s constitutional challenge, premised on his inability to contest his exempt designation, is meritless.

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