Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. EST
ATLANTIC COAST PIPELINE
Cooper administration refusing to let workers be interviewed
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration has told workers not to speak with an outside investigator from the General Assembly tasked with reviewing a side deal Cooper made with developers of a natural gas pipeline.
A legislative committee agreed recently to hire a firm of ex-federal agents to examine last year’s memorandum of understanding between Cooper and utilities building the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Firm investigators called Department of Environmental Quality workers this month seeking interviews with four workers, without success.
Kristi Jones, Cooper’s chief of staff, wrote Republican lawmakers last week saying the workers are declining interviews because they aren’t protected from what she calls “underhanded” or illegal interrogation. Republican leaders writing her Wednesday called those arguments “outrageous” and point out the firm is comprised of people who served the country admirably.
FBI, state officials join effort to find missing 3-year-old
ERNUL, N.C. (AP) – Hundreds of volunteers are helping authorities search for a 3-year-old North Carolina boy last seen playing near his grandmother’s home.
Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes tells news outlets Wednesday afternoon that the FBI, state investigators and the U.S. Marines Corps from nearby bases at Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point are part of the effort to find Casey Lynn Hathaway.
Hughes says the boy was playing with two other children in his grandmother’s backyard Tuesday, but didn’t come inside with them.
Hughes says Casey wasn’t adequately dressed for the cold weather and he’s concerned about sinkholes and deep water ditches in the area. He says divers are assessing nearby ponds.
Casey is 28 inches (71 centimeters) tall, weighs 25 pounds (11 kilograms) and has blond hair and brown eyes.
LOTTERY WINNER-FEEDING HUNGRY
North Carolina lottery winner to use money to feed homeless
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A chef who cooked for President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama says he will use his winnings in a North Carolina lottery game to feed the hungry in the Dominican Republic.
A news release from the North Carolina Education Lottery on Wednesday said Roberto Mendoza of Charlotte said he followed his mother’s intuition and bought a Hit $500 ticket at a local convenience store.
Mendoza, who won $250,000 in the scratch-off game, said he would use the $176,876 he took home after taxes to finish building a cafeteria in the Dominican Republic. He said he told himself when he was a teen that if he was ever in a position to give back, he would do everything he could to ensure no one else has to go hungry.
Alligators freeze in N. Carolina swamp with noses above ice
(Information from: The Charlotte Observer, http://www.charlotteobserver.com)
OCEAN ISLE BEACH, N.C. (AP) – Alligators in one North Carolina swamp have once again allowed themselves to freeze in place with their noses above the ice.
The Charlotte Observer reports The Swamp Park manager George Howard says 18 American alligators froze Monday night and stayed frozen all day Tuesday. He says the alligators seem to sense when the water is at its freezing point and poke their noses into the air “at just the right moment.”
Howard has said frozen alligators enter a state of “brumation,” which is similar to hibernation.
Alligators in the 65-acre park and sanctuary in Ocean Isle Beach weathered freezing temperatures for the first time this way last January. He says those alligators thawed out days later with no apparent injuries.
AUDIT-MENTAL HEALTH AGENCIES
Audit: Managed-care agencies get to keep too much profits
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – The state auditor says how North Carolina pays to treat the mentally ill, substance abusers and people with disabilities leaves too much money left over for regional managed-care agencies.
Auditor Beth Wood’s office released a performance audit Wednesday on Medicaid rates for seven “local management entities.” They’re fixed monthly rates for each patient covered.
The report says while rates are “actuarially sound,” the state Medicaid office should set goals for profits the entities can keep. The auditors calculate that without such standards, the entities have retained $439 million in “excess savings” over three years.
Responding to the audit, state health Secretary Mandy Cohen writes limiting savings could discourage cost efficiencies. Her department is comfortable with the current policy, which directs agencies to reinvest their savings in community health services.
BRUNSWICK JAIL-GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN
Letter: County holding federal inmates in shutdown owed $54K
(Information from: WECT-TV, http://www.wect.com/)
BOLIVIA, N.C. (AP) – A letter to a North Carolina sheriff from U.S. Marshals says his county is owed more than $54,000 for housing federal inmates in December during the partial government shutdown.
WECT-TV quotes the Jan. 7 letter to Brunswick County Sheriff John Ingram from Acting U.S. Marshal Robert Pettit. It says the Marshals Service is unable to process payments for prisoner housing because of a lack of federal appropriation.
The county jail can hold 50 federal detainees at most through its agreement with the Marshals Service and invoice it $65 per day per inmate.
The sheriff’s office said in an email that 20 federal detainees were being held as of Tuesday morning. It says the jail can absorb the unexpected costs through the fiscal year’s end, should the shutdown last that long.
SHOOTING SUSPECT-COLD WEATHER
Shooting suspect charged after cold made him seek help
(Information from: The News & Observer, http://www.newsobserver.com)
WILSON’S MILLS, N.C. (AP) – Authorities in North Carolina say a man accused of shooting a woman is hospitalized after he went to a home to seek help after being exposed to cold temperatures.
The News & Observer of Raleigh reports the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office was searching for 68-year-old David McKinney after he fled the scene of last Saturday’s shooting in Wilson’s Mills.
The sheriff’s office said McKinney appeared at a house on Monday and asked the residents for help. Sheriff’s office spokesman Capt. Jeff Caldwell said exposure to temperatures in the 30s apparently made McKinney disoriented.
The sheriff’s office said McKinney, who is hospitalized and will be sent to the Johnston County jail upon his release, is charged with assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury with intent to kill.
HANDICAPPED STUDENT-CORPORAL PUNISHMENT
Teacher’s aide sentenced for striking handicapped girl, 12
LOUISBURG, N.C. (AP) – A teacher’s aide in North Carolina has been given a 10-day jail sentence and a year’s probation after being found guilty of using corporal punishment on a handicapped child.
WNCN in Raleigh reports a Franklin County judge found 61-year-old Margaret Harris guilty of a misdemeanor charge of striking a handicapped person.
A former co-worker testified she saw Harris hit the 12-year-old girl multiple times last April, hard enough to bend a large kitchen spoon and leave bruises. Harris denied the charges.
Harris, who lost her job, also must perform 24 hours of community service and undergo a mental health evaluation. Trial concluded Tuesday.
The girl’s mother says her daughter has Potocki-Lupski syndrome, described online as a genetic disorder which can cause developmental delay and shows some behaviors associated with autism.