Folks comforted by the General Assembly's reincarnation of the State Ethics Commission two years ago are likely to be discomfited by the latest episode in Raleigh concerning the … State Ethics Commission. It appears a commission official let an aide to Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue look at her financial statements on file there behind closed doors. A commission staffer who witnessed this oddity noted it on the office log. Another employee deleted that note. When a news reporter asked why, commission director Perry Newson fired the staffer who had made the note in the first place.
This raises questions: Does it matter whether the public views commission records behind closed doors? It wouldn't make any difference, if the commission made sure those records could not be changed, such as providing copies and not originals. Should the commission have fired an employee for making a note that might embarrass a high official? We don't know if the firing was related, but surely the commission realizes that's the obvious conclusion most folks will come to.
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An independent inquiry is needed to set things straight. If it's important for the watchdog to watch, it's also important that someone watches the watchdog.
Paying for rape kits shouldn't fall to victims
Here's one small matter of justice the N.C. General Assembly took care of this year: It appropriated enough money so rape victim won't also be victims of insufficient funds to pay for forensic tests to help identify their assailants.
Many readers were outraged last winter when they learned that a majority of rape victims last year had to pay for at least part of the costs of rape kits used to collect bodily evidence of an attack. Having to pay for their own examinations – part of a process that police use to track down rapists – only added more pain and suffering to their ordeal.
Legislators promised to fix the problem, and did. They quadrupled the amount provided for rape kit examinations and provided a $1.1 million annual appropriation to pay for the exams. That's the right thing to do.
‘Scenic' designation helps Catawba but isn't enough
This week S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford visited Rock Hill to sign a bill designating 30 miles of the Catawba River as an S.C. Scenic River. It was a welcome gesture. But don't be fooled into thinking the measure will, by itself, save the river from degradation. It falls far short of protecting the river from all that ails it – much of it coming from North Carolina, including Charlotte.
Growth and development in the watershed has polluted the river with sediment, runoff and treated (or sometimes untreated) sewage. The pollution is so serious that this year the nonprofit group American Rivers named the Catawba the country's most endangered river.
The S.C. designation won't add any requirements to protect the river. It does mandate a management plan and an inventory of historic, cultural, wildlife and plant life, including the largest known colony of the rare and beautiful rocky shoals spider lily. And at this point, any protection for the Catawba is better than none.