Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment at 11:20 a.m. EDT
ELECTION 2020-MININUM WAGE
Julian Castro joins McDonald’s strikers in North Carolina
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) – Democratic presidential contender Julian Castro has joined a march to a McDonald’s restaurant in North Carolina to draw attention to workers’ efforts to raise minimum wage and secure other protections.
Democratic presidential candidates are making pay equity a top issue in the 2020 campaign, and several were joining actions around the country Thursday. Castro is former secretary of Housing and Urban Development and current San Antonio mayor.
The McDonald’s annual shareholder meeting is also Thursday in Dallas. Striking cooks and cashiers plan to travel to the shareholder meeting, where they’ll attend a video town hall hosted by Sen. Bernie Sanders, another Democratic presidential candidate.
Earlier this spring, Castro backed his own campaign staff’s vote to unionize, saying “it’s not enough to talk the talk. You have to walk the walk.”
ENDANGERED WOLVES-ILLEGAL KILLINGS
Politics, killings stifle wolf recovery amid hefty price tag
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Illegal killings and political resistance have undercut the return of two species of endangered wolves despite more than $80 million in government spending.
Wildlife officials warn the red wolves of North Carolina could be gone from the wild within a decade. In the Southwest, Mexican gray wolves continue to struggle despite recent gains.
Biologists say poaching has a big effect.
The Associated Press found that over the last two decades, more than half of Mexican wolf deaths and about one in four red wolf deaths resulted from gunshots or were otherwise deemed illegal.
Their recovery has been further hindered by opposition over attacks on livestock or game animals.
A third wolf type – the Western gray wolf – has thrived since reintroduction and could soon lose federal protection.
N Carolina prison workers quitting fast, citing low staffing
(Information from: WNCN-TV.)
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina’s prisons are on a hiring push, but they’re losing workers almost as fast as new ones are hired because of forced overtime resulting from low staffing levels.
WNCN reports a top leader in the state’s Public Safety Department says with one out of five jobs unfilled vacancy rates are at historic levels. Deputy Secretary Tracy Little told members of the state’s prison reform advisory board on Wednesday that all the mandatory overtime forced to cover tasks required despite short staffing pushes people into quitting.
Employees questioned in exit surveys cite the workload and lack of adequate staffing as their top reason for leaving. That’s followed by inadequate compensation, unsafe working environment, and scheduling.
State records show 1,812 correctional officers were hired last year, 70 more than those quitting.
BATHROOM BREAK-GUN CHARGE
Prosecutors: Bathroom break leads to gun charge, sentence
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A convicted felon has been sentenced to four years in prison after being caught with a firearm when he stopped his car for a bathroom break along a road.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a release Wednesday that Clifton Eugene Battle was sentenced on a charge of possession of a firearm by a felon. The 35-year-old pleaded guilty to the charge in February.
Prosecutors say in June 2018, a deputy saw a car stopped on a Raleigh road. Authorities say Battle had stopped his car to use the bathroom, and a deputy saw a handgun in plain view in the car.
Prosecutors say Battle was on supervised release for a previous 2008 gun-related conviction when the more recent arrest happened.
Battle’s defense attorney declined comment Wednesday.
North Carolina governor issuing paid parental leave order
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is using the power of his pen again to promote policies his administration considers supportive of women in the workplace and family-friendly.
Cooper’s office says the Democratic governor on Thursday will sign an executive order addressing paid parental leave. In recent months, Cooper signed orders addressing protections for pregnant state employees and the pay gap between female and male state workers.
One order requires agencies under Cooper’s control to provide workplace adjustments to pregnant workers unless it would impose an undue hardship on the organization. The other prevents agencies in his administration from reviewing salary histories of job applicants. That prohibition is designed to narrow pay inequities based on gender.
ELECTIONS BOARD-EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
N Carolina elections board deciding what to pay new director
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina’s elections board has money on its mind as it plans to hire a new executive to run operations.
The State Board of Elections meets Thursday to discuss what to pay Karen Brinson Bell as the next executive director starting June 1.
Bell last week was selected to take over as state elections director after current director Kim Strach was ousted from the job she’d held since 2013. Strach was promoted to the job under Republican former Gov. Pat McCrory, but the elections board is now back in Democratic hands following lengthy litigation.
Bell is a Duplin County native now living in South Carolina who was formerly a regional staffer for the state elections board and ex-director of Transylvania County’s elections board.
Coastal Land Trust purchases 182 acres surrounded by forest
WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) – The Coastal Land Trust has purchased 182 acres surrounded by the Croatan National Forest, marking the second time it’s used settlement money to save North Carolina land.
The trust said in a news release earlier this week that it’s purchased the property in Craven County, using grant money and funds from a $7.3 million settlement between the state Transportation Department and the Sierra Club. The deal closed May 1.
In November, the Wilmington-based conservation organization used settlement money to buy 113 acres at the Gale Creek Preserve near Newport.
The settlement between the state and environmental groups involved the new U.S. 70 bypass in Havelock.
PROJECT VERITAS-LIBEL LAWSUIT
NC judge dismisses libel case against Project Veritas
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A federal judge is dismissing a lawsuit claiming a North Carolina woman was libeled by a conservative group that produces “sting” videos intended to embarrass liberal organizations and media outfits.
U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger on Wednesday stopped the trial against Project Veritas, founder James O’Keefe and its tax-exempt social welfare affiliate Project Veritas Action before jurors considered the case.
Attorneys for O’Keefe and the organization known for videotaping people without their knowledge argued successfully that Shirley Teter’s lawyers hadn’t proved the videos depicting her were published despite knowing the information was false or not caring whether they were false.
The 71-year-old Asheville woman claimed online videos released by Project Veritas Action Fund linked her to a purported plot by Democratic operatives to incite violence at Donald Trump campaign rallies.