RALEIGH -- The state Senate has launched an investigation into two letters sent to the General Assembly by the administration last week. The letters were retracted hours after they were sent out but the chain of events leading to their original delivery has some senators questioning if an act of fraud occurred.
One letter was sent to a senator discussing funding for the Mid-Currituck Bridge on the coast. The other was sent to a representative dealing with Garden State Parkway in the Gaston County area.
During the Senate's budget debate last week the two letters appeared on some lawmaker's desks. Essentially, the letter's reversed a previous Department of Transportation decision that funding for the two projects could be put on hold for a year.
An amendment was put on the floor by a Democrat that was defeated but had many Republicans scratching their heads because they were surprised to see a change in opinion not being discussed with them first.
Then hours later, a second set of letters from the Department of Transportation this time saying to disregard the first letter. That letter said a signature was put on the letter without the proper review or consent.
Senators said this false information concerns them.
"Clearly something is amiss there 'fraudulent?' It seems like it would fit the definition of fraud to me," said Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-District 48.
The Senate Rules Committee said it is not ready to place blame for this error just yet, but has asked the Department of Transportation to testify Wednesday morning and governor's office, where the apparent inaccurate information appears to have been added to the letter, to speak on Thursday.
The DOT's chief operating officer Jim Trogdon released this statement Tuesday afternoon:
"In an effort to respond quickly to inquiries from concerned members of the General Assembly, a letter was sent under my signature last week that was confusing. I was not available to review the final language of the letter before the time that it was needed.
The Governor’s staff and DOT’s Deputy Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs believed both that the changes were accurate and that I would have approved them.
Therefore, the Deputy Secretary approved the revised language, and staff placed my signature on the letter. Steps have been taken to ensure that confusion like this does not happen in the future."