Editorial: Protection will answer questions

Aug. 18, 2014 @ 11:28 PM

Gov. Pat McCrory made a mistake. It wasn’t his first, likely won’t be his last, and keeps him in the company of many North Carolinians.

We all make mistakes.

McCrory’s signature on incorrect ethics filings is not to be taken lightly. That he moved to correct them promptly signals it was likely unintended.

But the governor was slow and had to be prodded to clear himself from Duke Energy investments. He can never fully separate himself from his 29-year employer. But there’s a large bill waiting if Duke Energy is forced to do something with its coal ash ponds, and either customers or stockholders are going to pay.

The spill happened Feb. 2. McCrory sold his shares between April 9 and 14. On April 16, McCrory announced his plan for coal ash cleanup. Lawmakers came up with another plan after that and still haven’t passed any legislation.

The governor has taken exception with the accusation he did something wrong. He did, and filing an amendment proves as much. He actually filed two, the other related to Spectra.

McCrory said he divested “to stop the constant, repeated, false and unfounded political rhetoric challenging my character via the media.”

But until he did so, the criticism was founded. He had a financial interest in a company with the third-largest coal ash spill in our country’s history. Action needed to be taken against Duke Energy for its responsibility in harming the environment.

And because his administration includes other ties to Duke Energy, his ethics are subject to remain in question unless he and the General Assembly protect customers from the big cleanup bill. It is the right thing to do, difficult as he may think it is for his former employer and any associated campaign contributors.

Despite the mistake he signed for, the governor gets an opportunity. He can stop the public relations train wreck by bringing together House speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger to create legislation that protects customers of Duke Energy.

Until such time, questions on his actions are fair game.