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North Carolina treasurer demands two DOT executives be replaced

North Carolina’s elected state treasurer called Wednesday for two top state Department of Transportation executives to be replaced following recent reports of overspending and salary raises at the agency.

Dale Folwell, a Republican, said DOT Secretary Eric Boyette needs to remove the chief operating officer and chief financial officer because the “continued mismanagement” threatens the state’s top-notch ratings when issuing debt.

The department, part of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration, has received two financial bailouts from the General Assembly since last fall. The shortfalls have been attributed in part to project overspending and storm repairs, adverse litigation and most recently falling road-building revenues due to the COVID-19 economic downturn.

Two performance reviews since May from State Auditor Beth Wood’s office found $740 million in overspending during the 2018-19 fiscal year and accused DOT of giving out $39 million more in employee raises than state law allowed. Folwell said the raises alone will increase the state’s unfunded pension liability by $176 million.

North Carolina is one of a handful of states with the top marks from all three major bond-rating houses — seen as a sign of fiscal soundness for state government.

“For over two years the DOT has been writing checks it couldn’t cash, harming taxpayers, road users and vendors,” Folwell said in a written statement. “Citizens deserve a stable and solvent DOT.”

The current COO is Bobby Lewis and the CFO is Evan Rodewald. Department spokesman Steve Abbott said the agency had no comment on Folwell’s demand. Previous DOT Secretary Jim Trogdon retired this winter. Folwell had demanded late last year that Cooper remove Trogdon for earlier fiscal problems. Boyette disagreed with the findings of Wood’s salary audit this month.

A second bailout approved by the General Assembly last month included more DOT financial oversight and lets legislative leaders choose six Board of Transportation members.

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