Some final thoughts on CMS’s decision to hire Charles Jeter

My piece raising questions about CMS’s hiring of Charles Jeter was posted on the morning of January 17. The thorough piece written by Ann Doss Helms in the Charlotte Observer in response to my piece was posted at the Observer’s website at 3:45pm on January 19 (it came out in print in the Sunday edition on January 22). I finally received a response from CMS to the final two questions about the number of applicants and number of applicants interviewed at 5:54pm on January 19 – two hours after Ann’s piece was posted online at the Observer. CMS’s response echoed the numbers cited in Ann’s piece: four total applicants and three total applicants interviewed before the position was filled.

So why did it take the involvement of a Charlotte Observer reporter for CMS to provide me this information? How many other requests for records or information from residents/voters/parents go unanswered because the person making the request isn’t a reporter for the Observer?

The Observer piece only raised additional questions in my mind. First, CMS General Counsel George Battle III, who is paid at least $190,000 according to the most recent salary figures online, stated in the Observer, “Jeter’s predecessor didn’t register.” This seems contrary to filings at the NC Secretary of State’s Office showing Jonathan Sink registered as the local government liaison for CMS in January 2013.

If Mr. Jeter’s predecessor didn’t register, then why is his registration form at the Secretary of State’s Office? [See registration form below.]

Sink registration

Of note, page 2 of Mr. Sink’s registration form only lists one out of a possible thirty-one categories on which he intends to lobby – #9 Education. In comparison, Mr. Jeter’s registration form, signed on January 17, lists a staggering SIXTEEN categories on which he intends to lobby as the local government liaison for CMS – including #9 Education, but also including such categories as #22 Law Enforcement/Courts/Judges/Crimes/Prison, #26 Natural Resources/Forest Products/Fisheries/Mining Products, and #29 Transportation/Highways/Streets/Roads.

Why would the local government liaison for CMS ever need to lobby the general assembly about mining and mining products?? [See registration form below.]

Jeter registration

Second, Mr. Battle was quoted in the Observer denying responsibility for the refusal to release the applicant and interviewee numbers to me. If Mr. Battle was not responsible for making the determination on whether or not to provide the requested information to me, then who in the CMS Legal department did make this decision? Based on the email responses from my contact at CMS it seemed obvious CMS Legal was being consulted throughout this process. My initial request was sent on December 13 and the initial response from CMS was received on January 3 stating, “… awaiting a response from CMS Legal on whether [applicant and interviewee figures] can be released.” On January 6, CMS responded again stating, “… CMS Legal has determined that no records exist of this information.” The final email came from CMS Chief Communications Officer Kathryn Block but only referenced “CMS” in general, not CMS Legal, stating, “CMS has considered items four and five…”

If Mr. Battle didn’t make the decision to deny me the requested information, does that mean the CMS Communications Department is making determinations on what records/information is or is not disclosable under the law without consulting with CMS Legal?

Finally, I still want someone to explain to me how a local government liaison produces $91,000 worth of value to the taxpayers. Don’t worry, I’m not holding my breath…