Top state transportation official calls altered letters ‘flat wrong’

Submitted by John_Frank on 2012-06-20 08:33

Tags: Under the Dome | Gov. Bev Perdue | Jim Trogdon | N.C. Department of Transportation | Senate Rules Committee

 UPDATED: N.C. Department of Transportation’s Chief Operating Officer Jim Trogdon told an investigative Senate panel Wednesday that altered letters sent under his name were not correct and were the result of pressure from Gov. Bev Perdue’s office.

 The alterations made to the letters — described by Perdue’s office as “edits” — changed Trogdon’s written position on road funding to say money for two major toll road projects in the state was needed in the next budget.

 Trogdon told the Senate panel that he had been out of town when Pryor Gibson, an adviser to Perdue, went to his office to meet with a deputy DOT secretary last Thursday morning, 90 minutes before the state Senate was to discuss the budget.

 “What occurred in my office was about between 9:30 and 10:30 — the draft edits arrived that were presented to the staff,” Trogdon told the panel. “And they were presented as a factual statement reviewed by the governor’s staff and attorneys and must be completed and this letter must be sent by 10:45.”

 Trogdon said Gibson wanted Trogdon’s signature on the letter instead of the deputy DOT secretary’s, and an assistant added Trogdon’s electronic signature.

 When Trogdon learned about the changes by the governor’s staff, after receiving an email from his assistant, he immediately said they were not true and began taking steps to undo what happened.

Trogdon told senators he worked quickly to correct the problem.

 Trogdon said the deputy secretary who was involved, Susan Coward, had known Gibson for years and “trusted his statement and judgment” to her about making the changes over Trogdon’s name.

 “In this case, that judgment was flat wrong,” Trogdon said.

 Coward did not address the committee. DOT will not make her available for an interview.

 The Senate Rules Committee’s inquiry into the letters said it will hear from the governor’s office Thursday.