Dollars v. Rucho: Calling in the FBI

Lorrie Dollar

Lorrie Dollar

RALEIGH – A documented trail of emails obtained by Jones & Blount – the latest development in a controversy surrounding a private contract for maintenance of the state’s prisons – shows Lorrie Dollar, a recently dismissed senior Department of Public Safety official, contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation to encourage them to investigate a political opponent of her husband. According to the email trail, she offered seemingly conflicting views on a key report to legislative staff and the DPS secretary regarding the department’s position on an important budget provision.

IMG_3489Lorrie Dollar – the wife of chief N.C. House budget writer Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake) and former DPS chief operating officer who lost her job last month in a department shakeup – allegedly encouraged the FBI to investigate Sen. Bob Rucho (R-Matthews) after a legislative staffer inquired about a budget provision on behalf of Senate leader Phil Berger.

IMG_3487Dollar also directed her department’s legislative liaisons to say DPS stood by a cost-benefit analysis report of private prison maintenance, and that the department favored a budget provision that would prohibit private maintenance contracts.

The next day, Dollar advised her boss – DPS Secretary Frank Perry – that the report was “not perfect but the results were correct,” and that without the budget provision the secretary would have more flexibility.

Sen. Bob Rucho (R-Matthews)

Sen. Bob Rucho (R-Matthews)

When she referred Rucho to the FBI, Dollar cited the legislative aide’s comment that the DPS report on the cost-benefit of private prison maintenance was “flawed” as evidence Rucho had been contacted by Graeme Keith, the contractor pushing to extend his company’s state contracts whose influence the FBI is investigating. It was only hours later that Dollar told Perry she believed the report to also be “not perfect.”

Jones and Blount reached out to the President Pro Temp’s office, which refused to comment, nor could we confirm whether Roucho’s office or Senate leadership was notified of the FBI’s involvement.

As of Friday evening, DPS tentatively verified the authenticity of the email trail, but could not comment. Rucho’s office was also not available for comment.

Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake)

Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake)

The emails appear to be the latest in a series of differences between the Dollars and Rucho. Lorrie and Nelson Dollar are long-term state employees and often take positions opposite from Rucho on legislative priorities.  Rucho was a strong proponent of hospital transparency, Medicaid reform and repealing the state’s Certificate of Need law. Nelson Dollar has been the most vocal advocate of maintaining a managed-care model in Medicaid and the Certificate of Need system. The law firm that still touts Lorrie Dollar as an attorney lists Certificate of Need work as one of its specialties.

Nelson Dollar has also been a consistent opponent of the tax reforms Rucho championed as chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, working to extend pay raises to the state employees who have honored Dollar with multiple awards and campaign contributions, most recently the State Employee Association of North Carolina’s Legislator of the Year award.  Days after awarding Dollar the award, SEANC’s director issued a statement opposing the outsourcing of prison maintenance contracts which are the heart of the current dust-up between the Dollars and Rucho.

Rucho, on the other hand, has pushed policies that make it difficult for state employees to organize and for SEANC to collect dues from their members via state paychecks.

Rep. Dollar led the budget negotiations for the House during the controversial marathon session this summer. The General Assembly is scheduled to reconvene in late April.