McCrory's shady past: using government power to take private property

Which should enrage opponents of eminent domain, but probably won't:

The record evidences multiple Duke Power internal e- mail messages and memoranda reflecting that Duke Power and the City collaborated to have the City acquire a fee simple title to the property in order that Duke Power could provide the power to the plant. These e-mail messages indicate that the mayor pro tempore of the City, an employee of Duke Power, as well as the project director had contact with Duke Power officials and discussed condemning a fee simple interest for the project. The mayor pro tempore chaired the 12 September 1994 City Council meeting where the subject of condemning a fee simple was discussed, and he voted in favor of a fee simple condemnation."

The fact that Justice Lake had to make that observation in a dissent tells you something about how the state approaches government ethics, and that something isn't good. Such a glaring conflict of interest should be dealt with harshly but, more often than not, falls under an ever-rising bar of what's acceptable. And I can't believe Myers Park Pat can say this with a straight face:

"This is the first I've heard of this. (It is) just amazing this attack on the private sector," McCrory said.

Welcome to fricking Bizarro World. He uses his (government) position to confiscate private property, and then characterizes the revelation of that bad behavior as an "attack on the private sector"? I'd say stealing private property is a much bigger attack on the private sector than just talking about it.

Here's more from Justice Lake, which sounds frighteningly similar to complaints that have been filed recently by victims of Keystone XL land grabs, not to mention numerous fracked farmers in PA and elsewhere:

Had the excellent unanimous opinion of the Court of Appeals been affirmed, as it should have been, the practical effect of such decision would be that the City would get an easement to bury its pipeline underground and to maintain it in the future, and the Cooks would still be able to use their property as a dairy farm, as they have since at least the early 1960s.   Private property rights would be respected, and the legitimate public use in question would proceed unimpeded.   The result of the majority's decision will be to split the Cooks' dairy into two separate, disjointed parcels and keep them from using the land even for grazing.   The decision will also allow the improper use of the power of eminent domain to circumvent the intent and purpose of the carefully devised statewide legislative plan for settlement of electric service areas between electric suppliers, pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 62-110.2.

If supposed Libertarian groups like Civitas and JLF wanted to remain true to (stated) principle, they would have already been banging the property rights drum about McCrory's history and the Keystone land grabs. The silence is deafening.

Comments

McCrory knew about the deal for several months

Emails show that McCrory knew earlier in March that Duke was working with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utility Department (CMUD) to assemble property they wanted "in fee simple" to serve a new water plant. Some property was owned by the Cooks, some owned by the county. The City was looking to acquire right of way from both.

In March 1994, Charlotte acquired a piece of property elsewhere in order to trade with the county for the land near the water plant. At the time McCrory was informed by Duke. From Duke internal email 3/28/94, the day of the meeting:

I spoke with both Ella [Scarborough*] and Pat [McCrory] regarding the CMUD effort to get the City to agree to request fee ownership of the right of way for the new water intake line across County property. They both understood and were appreciative of the notice

From Duke internal email 3/29/94, the day after the meeting:

Two months ago, the real estate folks at CMUD said that this project was basically dead since it would be nearly impossible to acquire this land.

The City only really needed an easement but Duke wanted them to own it outright because Duke was planning to use the new ROW for power lines and control wiring. McCrory claimed not to know about this when he voted in September but it's clear he knew for 6 months. Curiously the September 12th meeting minutes are missing from the Charlotte website.

Update 1: In fact the issue of land acquisition for the water plant and the swap with the county was discussed at a March 7, 1994 Council workshop attended by McCrory. The whole point was that:

We found we could save $40,000 a year by becoming a customer of Duke Power rather than Crescent Electric Co-op but in order to do that we needed a strip of property in front of the plant across Brown's Cove to the water's edge.

*Note: Ella Scarborough was also a Duke employee, for 22 years.
Update 2:

8/24/94 meeting attended by McCrory

From the minutes of an August 22, 1994 council meeting attended by McCrory:

ACQUISITION OF 107,549.64 SQUARE FEET AT 7602 OLIVER HAGER ROAD FROM JAMES ERNEST COOK AND WIFE, RUBY H. COOK FOR $49,810.

Steven Krna, 6100 Fairview Road, stated he represents the interest of Mr. & Mrs. Cook in opposing the condemnation of their farm property. He said Mr. & Mrs. Cook do not want the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utility Department to obtain fee simply title to their property in question. Their opposition is not to stop or interfere with the proposed water line, but rather their opposition centers on the issue of the necessity of the taking of their property through the condemnation proceeding. He said Mr. & Mrs. Cook have offered to give a right-of-way easement to CMUD and that has been their position since the surveyors and appraisers approached them. It was their assumption that all the meetings with the City agents concerning the water line and the proposed land usage that CMUD would take an easement and it was never mentioned that they would seek fee simple title rather than an easement to accomplish their purpose. However, on July 23 Mr. & Mrs. Cook learned that CMUD did not want a right-of-way for the waterline, but instead wanted to acquire 100% ownership interest, fee simple title to the subject tracts of land. Mr. Krna said there are two parcels which cross Mr.& Mrs. Cook's Dairy Farm which has been slated for the waterline project.

Mr. Krna stated that in an effort to get title, Mr. & Mrs. Cook were informed by George Pickett of Rea Right-of-Way Services, Inc. that no power line would be on the property conveyed to CMUD. Several days later, Mr. Pickett admitted that a power line was proposed to be installed on the property slated for purchase. He said from the beginning, CMUD and their agents have not been truthful and upfront with information concerning their desire to obtain ownership of the property. Mr. & Mrs. Cook have farmed their property since 1957 and over the years have granted various easements to other utility companies for pipelines, power lines, etc. which cross their property. Now they have been asked to convey fee simple title, an actual ownership, conveying the property to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utility Department and the City of Charlotte.

Mr. Krna stated Mr. & Mrs. Cook have asked Mr. Pickett to determine if an easement instead of actual fee simple title to the property could be acceptable, and if not to let them know why. To date Mr. & Mrs. Cook have not received any definitive response to their question. He said the question they have, which remains unanswered, is why is the CMUD attempting to acquire a greater property interest than is required for a public purpose in establishing the water line?

Mayor Vinroot stated staff would talk about this and perhaps they could answer the questions later in the meeting. Later in the meeting the City Attorney advised the Mayor that staff wished to defer this matter until their next business meeting.

Bold added. Mr & Mrs Cook were getting screwed by Duke and Charlotte, without full disclosure.

It's an ugly story

Which I'm sure the McCrory cheerleaders would like to ignore, even if it means they throw their ideals out the window in the process.

Ideals?

They have one ideal and that is to win. Nothing else matters, never has, never will.

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