NC lt. governor's office gets private-sector boost - WNCT

NC lt. governor's office gets private-sector boost

Posted: Updated:
When Dan Forest arrived, the Hawkins-Hartness House was struggling to play the role of a stately workplace for state government's No. 2 executive. When Dan Forest arrived, the Hawkins-Hartness House was struggling to play the role of a stately workplace for state government's No. 2 executive.
RALEIGH, N.C. -

Before Gov. Pat McCrory recently backed off spending public dollars for upgrades to private bathrooms at the Executive Mansion, the trustee of another 19th century home two doors down already had figured another way to make more with less.

When new Lt. Gov. Dan Forest arrived in January at the Hawkins-Hartness House, the office of the lieutenant governor for the past 25 years, the Victorian structure was struggling to play the role of a stately workplace for state government's No. 2 executive.

With cracked plaster, barely working toilets, banks of fluorescent lighting and heaps of exposed electrical wiring, the 1882 building owned by the state since the late 1960s needed to be refreshed, said Forest, a Raleigh architect. No extra funds for the interior were expected from legislators.

"The place was just such a mess," Forest said.

So Forest used business connections to seek private firms willing to loan or donate to the state labor, supplies and furniture for the improvements. Companies came through, especially a Charlotte-based furniture company that outfitted Forest and his small staff in the large house with contemporary desks, bookcases, coffee tables and upholstered chairs.

"We wanted it to be different," he said. "We wanted to do something that other lieutenant governors hadn't done."

Another company donated to paint interior walls, with others providing carpet and new kitchen appliances. While state electricians cleaned up wiring, Forest and his wife, Alice, bought new lighting and bathroom fixtures, hung up curtains and photographs and brought in their school-age children to spiff up the place, which had a grand re-opening in May.

Forest said other agencies could learn from seeking private help to make state government improvements.

"There's a lot of people who are more than willing to step in and lend a hand and get things done," Forest said in an interview, adding "we need to be good stewards of what the people own. I think that's just good governance."

McCrory took some heat last month when his Department of Administration released a list of state buildings to benefit from $150 million for repairs and renovations the General Assembly inserted in this year's budget. Critics jumped on the $230,000 price tag to renovate the Executive Mansion's second-floor bathrooms, which date to the 1970s, while agencies keep facing cutbacks. McCrory's office said later that the governor wouldn't use tax money for the bathroom upgrades, and the final list presented to lawmakers last week omitted the project.

The deterioration of the Hawkins-Hartness House was symptomatic of years of diminished funds for capital projects and upkeep across state government, but also that the lieutenant governor's office can be an afterthought. Forest's primary job is to preside over state Senate debate, but he is unable to file bills. He votes only in a tie. He serves on a handful of state boards and performs additional duties McCrory subscribes to him.

The loaned and donated items to the state for the Hawkins-Hartness House are valued at more than $270,000, according to itemized figures provided by Forest's office. But the actual value is less because office furniture — making up nearly the entire amount — usually is sold from 30 to 50 percent below the list price provided. Most of the desks, for example, are listed from roughly $4,000 to $7,000.

David Longo, president and CEO of CBI Interiors of Charlotte, which loaned the office furniture to the state, said that when he initially entered the house, he was shocked about the poor message the interior was sending to guests about North Carolina.

"The house now as a whole is a place I believe represents our state well," Longo said Friday. "It is not overstated, but it is proper and it's functional."

Forest said his office communicated closely with the State Ethics Commission to determine how gifts and loans for the house could be made without breaking the law or preventing conflicts of interest.

Longo said he's known Forest for about 20 years. He gave the $12,000 maximum in donations to Forest's 2012 campaign, according to records at the State Board of Elections. Longo said he's got no ulterior motives to helping Forest or the state. He said just wants a state with a strong business environment and efficient government that benefits everyone.

Bob Phillips with the government reform group Common Cause North Carolina said he deserves credit making the improvements without using taxpayer dollars — as long as people who made loans and donations aren't seeking influence or anything in return, and conflict-of-interest lines are drawn clearly.

Phillips has a soft place in his heart for the Hawkins-Hartness House. He worked on the second floor as communications director for then-Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker in the 1990s.

"We enjoyed working there, and I treasured it," Phillips said.

Phillips and Forest also lamented the condition of other older properties around the mansion and lieutenant governor's office. McCrory has raised similar concerns and is trying to do something about it.

The repairs and renovations list approved last week includes $138,000 for exterior paint and repairs to the Hawkins-Hartness House and $131,000 for similar outside repairs to the Executive Mansion. The vacant Heck Andrews House, known as one of the first homes built in Raleigh after the Civil War, also will get $485,000 of outside work. But there's nothing for inside.

  • PoliticsMore>>

  • NC GOP Senate candidates face off as early voting begins

    NC GOP Senate candidates face off as early voting begins

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 11:15 PM EDT2014-04-24 03:15:49 GMT
    The four top-polling Republican Senate candidates, vying to unseat Democrat Kay Hagan, debated on Wednesday night in Raleigh, the night before early voting was set to begin. The primary is May 6, but voters can start heading to the polls on Thursday.During the half hour televised debate, State House of Representatives Speaker Thom Tillis of Charlotte said he was leading a conservative revolution in Raleigh, cutting regulations and taking credit for falling unemployment numbers. Tillis faces c...
    The four top-polling Republican Senate candidates, vying to unseat Democrat Kay Hagan, debated on Wednesday night in Raleigh, the night before early voting was set to begin. The primary is May 6, but voters can start heading to the polls on Thursday.During the half hour televised debate, State House of Representatives Speaker Thom Tillis of Charlotte said he was leading a conservative revolution in Raleigh, cutting regulations and taking credit for falling unemployment numbers. Tillis faces c...
  • Committee proposes rules for drone use in NC

    Committee proposes rules for drone use in NC

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 4:58 PM EDT2014-04-23 20:58:27 GMT
    A legislative committee approved a set of regulations that it hopes will calm people's fears about the use of drones while allowing the industry to flourish.
    A legislative committee approved a set of regulations that it hopes will calm people's fears about the use of drones while allowing the industry to flourish.
  • Republican NC Senate candidates meet in debate

    Republican NC Senate candidates meet in debate

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 2:24 PM EDT2014-04-23 18:24:44 GMT
    Thom Tillis largely shrugged off criticism about aspects of his legislative record from one of the three other candidates participating in their first television debate.
    Thom Tillis largely shrugged off criticism about aspects of his legislative record from one of the three other candidates participating in their first television debate.
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Mom bites off dog's ear to save daughter during attack

    Mom bites off dog's ear to save daughter during attack

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 2:49 PM EDT2014-04-22 18:49:19 GMT
    Image from CNN/KHOU-TVImage from CNN/KHOU-TV
    In a backyard in Alvin, swings a very lucky girl. Her name is Mackenzi Plass, or Kenzi for short, and she survived a dog attack and has undergone several surgeries."She'll be two and a half in May," said her very proud mother Chelsi Camp. "She's doing great. You wouldn't know it if you couldn't see."Mackenzi has scars on her face after the ordeal just weeks ago that put her mother's animal instincts to the test."You do whatever you can," said Camp. "I don't have physical strength at my side."...
    In a backyard in Alvin, swings a very lucky girl. Her name is Mackenzi Plass, or Kenzi for short, and she survived a dog attack and has undergone several surgeries."She'll be two and a half in May," said her very proud mother Chelsi Camp. "She's doing great. You wouldn't know it if you couldn't see."Mackenzi has scars on her face after the ordeal just weeks ago that put her mother's animal instincts to the test."You do whatever you can," said Camp. "I don't have physical strength at my side."...
  • Owner of Raleigh 'Party Mansion' guilty of tax evasion

    Owner of Raleigh 'Party Mansion' guilty of tax evasion

    Monday, April 14 2014 4:07 PM EDT2014-04-14 20:07:04 GMT
    Claude Verbal II, who now lives in Miami, pleads guilty to a number of federal tax evasion charges.
    Claude Verbal II, who now lives in Miami, pleads guilty to a number of federal tax evasion charges.
  • Piedmont Farm Tour

    Piedmont Farm Tour

    Piedmont Farm Tour

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 12:25 PM EDT2014-04-23 16:25:38 GMT
    The 2014 Piedmont Farm Tour is happening April 26-27 from 2-6pm both days! Come learn about the Triangle’s local and organic farm food scene. Meet local farmers tour their farms!View ourGoogle Interactive Mapfor alist ofthe exceptional farms on the tour this year – with driving directions!Download a PDF of theFarm Tour Brochure - Farm tour maps, directions and descriptions of all the fun things to do at each farm! How to Take the Piedmont Farm Tour Load up a car with your friends andfamily...
    The 2014 Piedmont Farm Tour is happening April 26-27 from 2-6pm both days! Come learn about the Triangle’s local and organic farm food scene. Meet local farmers tour their farms!View ourGoogle Interactive Mapfor alist ofthe exceptional farms on the tour this year – with driving directions!Download a PDF of theFarm Tour Brochure - Farm tour maps, directions and descriptions of all the fun things to do at each farm! How to Take the Piedmont Farm Tour Load up a car with your friends andfamily...
Powered by WorldNow

3221 South Evans Street
Greenville N.C. 27834

Telephone: 252.355.8500
Fax: 252.355.8568
Email: newsdesk@wnct.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.