Back when Republicans were in the minority in the General Assembly, they complained loudly about cronyism and corruption among the Democrats in control of the state. And they had a point. Democratic Speaker Jim Black went to prison for buying a vote for House Speaker from a Republican legislator. Former Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps also went to prison for shady campaign finance dealings. And investigations into former Governor Mike Easley’s administration resulted in an advisor going to prison for sweetheart real estate deals.
Now, Republicans are silent as Speaker Tim Moore faces corruption allegations of his own. The complaint has to do with property in Siler City that Moore and some business partners bought in 2013. According the AP, “The complaint accuses Moore of improperly intervening with DEQ so a limited liability company he co-owned could avoid fines related to underground fuel storage tanks where the former Townsend poultry plant stood.”
Using his power to influence a state regulator may be the charge, but the whole deal stinks. Moore and his partners bought the property for $85,000 in 2013 and sold it three years later for $550,000. Something’s not right about a windfall profit like that.
Moore, who’s from Kings Mountain, likes to portray himself as a humble small town lawyer. That’s not who he is. He’s used his position and influence to finance a high-flying lifestyle. As one person from Cleveland County told me, “He left for Raleigh driving beat up Honda and he’s come back driving a Maserati.”
Moore’s a guy who’s making the most of serving in the legislature—for himself. He not only is Speaker of the House, he’s also County Attorney for Cleveland County. He’s paid a retainer of $25,000 per year plus $250 per hour. That’s a good gig. I wonder if he would have gotten it were he not House Speaker?
He’s had questionable dealings throughout his tenure. Back in 2011, he got two grants from government entities to renovate a building in downtown Kings Mountain where he wanted to move his office. The deal fell through after it came to light.
One of his business clients is the Catawba Indian Nation. The tribe wants to build a casino on the border of North and South Carolina in Cleveland County. They’d likely need legislative approval and a deal with the state. I’m sure they pay well.
There’s nothing wrong with making money. There’s everything wrong with conflict of interest or the appearance of it. He asked regulators from an agency dependent on funding from the legislature to make an exception to a rule. Surely, he knows those regulators aren’t looking at him the same way they’re looking at anybody else. And just as surely, Moore would never have been approached by investors who shared in his sweetheart deal if he weren’t in the state legislature.
At worst, Tim Moore is guilty of corruption. At best, he’s guilty of very bad judgment. Neither quality is acceptable for one of the most powerful men in the state.