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NC Republican Party helps recruit for McCrory administration jobs, raising partisan concerns

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RALEIGH The N.C. Republican Party is helping Gov. Pat McCrory recruit like-minded applicants to fill hundreds of state government jobs.

The party’s executive director sends a weekly notice to county GOP leaders advertising available state jobs – anything from a pianist at a state developmental disability center to a tax auditor at the Department of Revenue.

The move is raising concerns about the politicization of the state government workforce and comes shortly after the McCrory administration faced pressing questions from lawmakers about its hiring practices.

The Republican governor is already allowed to designate 1,500 jobs as patronage positions exempt from civil service protections, hundreds more than his predecessors, because of bills passed in the past two legislative sessions.

“State employees should be hired based on what they know, not who they know,” said Dana Cope, president of the State Employees Association of North Carolina. “No public service job should be awarded on partisan politics, and it is illegal to do so.”

Todd Poole said he began sending the weekly email in August, when he took the helm running the party’s daily operations. It goes to roughly 130 Republican officials and associates, many of whom send it to even more party activists.

“I think it’s important to spread the word about job openings in the state, and if there are eligible, qualified candidates that they know, we need to make them aware,” he said.

The McCrory administration did not ask him to send the email, he said, and he deflected concerns about partisanship. “I don’t think it’s anything partisan about helping people find a job,” he said.

Parties disagree over practice

But at the same time, he acknowledged, he only emails the notice to Republicans and friends. “We haven’t had a Republican administration in this state in over 20 years, and our state government is full of Democrat bureaucrats,” he said. “If a few Republicans get jobs, I’ll take our Republican bureaucrats over Democrat bureaucrats every day.”

Pat Carr, the chairwoman of the Haywood County Republican Party, received one email earlier this month and sent it to other GOP activists in her county. “If you have Republican family or friends in counties where jobs are available, please contact them to see if they have any interest,” she wrote.

In an interview, Carr said she didn’t see the problem with her message. Hiring for state positions has been “partisan for the last 100 years,” she said, alluding to Democrats’ long-standing control in Raleigh.

The N.C. Democratic Party did not send a weekly email when the party controlled the governor’s mansion under Gov. Bev Perdue, said spokesman Micah Beasley.

“What we have here is a litmus test based on partisan affiliation instead of qualifications,” he said. “This is a brazen attempt and effort to make sure partisan friendlies are getting state government jobs.”

McCrory has insisted that he is seeking the most qualified applicants, regardless of party affiliation. But his hiring practices have drawn repeated scrutiny.

Earlier this year, two 24-year-old campaign aides received prominent positions with salaries topping $80,000 at the Department of Health and Human Services, and Secretary Aldona Wos hired a vice president at her husband’s company on a contract worth $310,000 for 11 months of work.

Patronage positions grow

McCrory’s administration also added 339 patronage positions this year, bringing the total of state government jobs now exempt from civil service protections to more than 1,300. Those exempt positions no longer include agency leaders but also some rank-and-file state jobs.

The personnel moves drew barbed questions from Republican and Democratic lawmakers at a legislative hearing earlier this month. Other attention focused on two settlement agreements with state workers who left their jobs and a yearlong contract with former Republican state Auditor Les Merritt worth about $300,000.

McCrory’s office didn’t respond to questions about the recruitment efforts.

In the weekly email, Poole sends a spreadsheet of available jobs and a link to a public website listing openings. He initially received the list each week from the Department of Administration but now pulls it from the website himself. He said he doesn’t offer recommendations for applicants who express interest, saying they must go through the process “on their own merit.”

Donna Williams, the Wake County Republican Party chairwoman, said she takes the email and sends jobs in her area to about 7,000 people, some of whom are unaffiliated and Democratic voters. “So many people have no idea they can go to a specific website for state government to look for a job,” she said. “It’s a way of getting the word out into the community.”

Frank: 919-829-4698
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