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Man accused of bribing ex-county officials reaches plea deal
(Information from: The Asheville Citizen-Times, http://www.citizen-times.com)
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) – A contractor accused of bribing several former North Carolina county officials has reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors.
The Asheville Citizen-Times reports court records filed Wednesday say Joe Wiseman of Roswell, Georgia, will plead guilty to conspiracy to commit honest services fraud. The charge has a maximum sentence of five years in prison. A judge is set to rule Thursday on whether to accept the deal.
Prosecutors say Wiseman bribed ex-Buncombe County officials Wanda Greene, Mandy Stone and Jon Creighton for years with items including spa treatments and vacations in exchange for contracts worth millions of dollars.
Greene, Stone and Creighton await sentencing on corruption charges. Greene’s son and ex-county employee, Michael Greene, awaits sentencing for misusing county-issued credit cards.
An investigation of the county government is ongoing.
DISASTER FRAUD-WOMAN CHARGED
Woman accused of making false claims for disaster relief
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina woman is accused by federal prosecutors of making fraudulent claims to secure disaster relief funds.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced in a news release Wednesday that 50-year-old Sheila Ruffin of Rocky Mount is charged with 15 counts of disaster fraud related to Hurricane Matthew recovery efforts.
Prosecutors said Ruffin made false statements and submitted fraudulent documentation in applications to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for assistance. Officials said she was awarded more than $11,000 in a one-year span.
Officials said if convicted, Ruffin would face up to 30 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, supervised release of not more than three years and restitution.
North Carolina city to test ShotSpotter system
GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina city has scheduled a live-fire gunshot event to test a system which detects when a gun has been fired.
The city of Greenville says in a news release that the exercise is scheduled for Friday at 5:30 p.m. The controlled test will consist of gunshot sounds followed by validation of quality detection by ShotSpotter. According to the news release, the system isn’t considered live or operational until the event is successfully completed.
Greenville police will staff all test locations. A bullet trap will be used to ensure public safety and no bullets will be fired into the air. The city says there is no danger to the public.
ShotSpotter uses a wide-area network of acoustic sensors to detect when and where a gun is being fired.
OUTER BANKS BRIDGE
New Outer Banks bridge could get a new name as well
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – The new bridge soon to open over North Carolina’s Oregon Inlet could come with a new name.
A state Department of Transportation committee recommended Wednesday that the Bonner Bridge be renamed for former Sen. Marc Basnight, who served a record 18 years as Senate leader. He represented Dare County, where the bridge is located.
The Dare County commissioners had voted 3-2 Monday to recommend that the bridge be named for Basnight. DOT policy requires a unanimous vote from a local government for renaming bridges, roads and ferries, but the committee recommended the change anyway.
The state transportation board will vote March 7 on whether to rename the bridge.
Herbert Bonner was U.S. senator from 1940 to 1965. He also signed the Southern Manifesto, a 1956 document opposing school desegregation.
With statue gone, interim UNC-Chapel Hill chancellor named
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) – An interim chancellor has been named for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where the previous campus leader left during the controversy over the removal of a Confederate statue.
UNC’s interim president, Bill Roper, said Wednesday that Kevin Guskiewicz will serve as interim chancellor. As dean of the College of Arts and Sciences since January 2016, Guskiewicz has led the largest academic institution at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Guskiewicz replaces Carol Folt, who left Jan. 31.
Folt planned to leave in May, but the state university governing board forced her out early because she unilaterally ordered the removal of the stone base that formerly featured the statue of a Confederate soldier.
The metal soldier was torn down last summer by protesters who said the monument was a racist symbol.
VOTING RECORDS-NORTH CAROLINA
Millions of N Carolina voting records sought, hundreds given
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina officials are turning over almost 800 voter files sought by a federal investigation that last year demanded millions of records.
The state elections board said Wednesday it is responding to grand jury subpoenas by providing records for 289 people who previously registered to vote in eastern North Carolina and another 500 people outside the region.
The state board had called the subpoenas served on it and 44 county elections boards by Raleigh-based federal prosecutors overly broad. The state board estimated those requests for ballots, poll books, registration applications and other documents totaled more than 20 million records.
Federal prosecutors also demanded eight years of voter registration applications from the state Division of Motor Vehicles since 2010 from foreign-born applicants and from non-U.S. citizens completed in a foreign language.
N Carolina legislature finalizes 4 ethics commission spots
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – The North Carolina General Assembly has finalized its appointments to a State Ethics Commission revived after two years of litigation.
The House voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to fill four of the commission’s eight spots with the picks of the House speaker and Senate leader. The Senate approved those appointments earlier this week. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper chooses the other four commissioners.
A separate ethics commission was in place for decades until the legislature tried in 2016 to combine duties with the elections board. Courts struck down the combined panel’s composition, leading to separate panels starting Jan. 31.
The legislature’s choices are former Speaker Carl Stewart, recent Sen. Shirley Randleman, ex-Rep. Roger West and former Shaw University President Clarence Newsome.
Governor rescinds appointment to civil rights board
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has cancelled a city councilwoman’s appointment to a state civil rights panel the day after Republican legislators criticized his pick because of her tweet comparing law enforcement officers to terrorists.
Cooper’s lawyer wrote Charlotte council member LaWana Mayfield on Wednesday telling her the governor rescinded her state Human Relations Commission appointment so the commission’s work can “continue without distraction from its mission.”
Mayfield wrote last year that being black in the U.S. under President Donald Trump “has created homegrown terrorist (sic) wearing blue uniforms.” Mayfield didn’t respond to phone and email messages Wednesday.
On Tuesday, state Senate Republicans asked Cooper to withdraw Mayfield’s appointment, saying it raised questions about the administration’s stance toward police. Cooper spokesman Ford Porter said the governor values law enforcement.