#ncga: Ethics, meet Tim Moore. Mr. Moore, meet Ethics.

For the second time in a little over three years, Tim Moore’s ethical choices have made him an easy target for moore1Blinkin’ Chris’s comedy website.

Moore ran for speaker promising a new era of transparency and inclusiveness within the GOP caucus.  Yet, we’ve had a session — so far — with a caucus effectively run behind closed doors by a junta comprised of Moore, David Lewis, and Nelson Dollar. 

Sources within the GOP House caucus tell me Moore has been working overtime to smooth over and quiet down a potential financial scandal within the House GOP campaign operation with possible ties to his ally Dollar. 

In February 2012, Blinkin’ Chris and his crew caught Moore pocketing $62,000 in state government-approved funds for restoration of his “historic” law office.  Never mind that he — at the time — was still one of the most powerful legislators on Jones Street (with a whole lot of say over the ops of the Commerce Department).  

Let’s fast forward to this week.  Blinkin’ Chris’s crew and The Shelby Star are reporting that Moore has been hired as the Cleveland County attorney:

N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore has a new job, after he was hired this week to serve as the attorney for Cleveland County, where he lives.
That could raise questions about whether the new job poses a conflict of interest for Moore, a Kings Mountain Republican. As head of the state House of Representatives, Moore has considerable influence and insider knowledge about state budget negotiations as well as other pieces of state legislation that affect counties around the state.One of his tasks in the county position will be to “[a]dvise the Board and Manager on proposed legislation,” according to a copy of Moore’s contract, which was obtained by N.C. Policy Watch.Fitzcryin-eyes-closed

Moore’s legislative staff said that his county-based job will be limited to offering advice on proposed legislation in the county, and not any state legislation.

Seriously?  County boards interact with the state all the time.  WHY would you hire an attorney who would have to recuse himself EVERY time there is any interaction with state government?  Were there no other attorneys available to serve Cleveland County? Why not hire an attorney who doesn’t already have a powerful state government job?

There are so many potential conflicts with this arrangement:

The House Speaker job tends to be a time-consuming one, though all members of the legislature are considered part-time lawmakers with many still running businesses or going to jobs in their home districts. Moore makes $38,151 a year as House Speaker.

The Shelby Star noted that when Moore was hired Tuesday at a county commission meeting, he made reference to his position in the state legislature.

“Moore joked about having another job that gave him ‘some insight’ about what is going on in the state and communities but still had a law practice to keep up,” the Shelby Star wrote in an article about Moore’s hiring.mooresmile

*Oh, yeah.  Sure. There will be noooooo intersection whatsoever of his state legislature duties and county attorney duties.*

State ethics law prevents those in public positions, like lawmakers, from using their public position to bring “financial benefit to the covered person or legislative employee, a member of the covered person’s or legislative employee’s extended family, or business with which the covered person or legislative employee is associated.”

Yep. And that sounds exactly like what’s happened here.  Are we really expected to believe that his position as speaker had nooooooo influence on his hiring as county attorney? 

Clayton Somers, Moore’s chief of staff, said Friday afternoon that Moore sought an informal ethics opinion before taking the job, and that the legislation referred to in the contract was only county-based proposals, not state legislation.

An “informal ethics opinion”?  Seriously.  *Gosh, that makes us feel better.*  (Just out of curiosity, how many legislative staffers out there have the cojones to tell the sitting speaker NO?)

“He is not going to advise the county on any state legislation,” Somers said.moore

Moore will receive a $25,000 annual retainer, and will bill the county $250 an hour for whatever work he does serving as the legal adviser to the county commission, according to a copy of his contract obtained from Cleveland County by N.C. Policy Watch.

The job will require Moore to attend commission meetings, consult with the county commission and county manager as needed and prepare legal documents and contracts, in addition to offering advice about pending legislation.[…]

How can we verify he won’t touch state issues as county attorney?  Discussions with attorneys are typically done in executive session.  And then there’s that whole attorney-client privilege thing …