The General Assembly on Monday confirmed Gov. Pat McCrory's choice for a seat on the North Carolina Industrial Commission despite complaints from Democrats that the appointee is unsuited for the job.
The Senate voted 31-18 for Mooresville attorney Charlton Allen to serve on the six-member commission, which rules on contested workers' compensation claims. The House already voted for him late last month.
Allen is "a reasonable and fair person who will serve the citizens of North Carolina well," said Sen. David Curtis, R-Lincoln, during the Senate's debate.
In an unusual fight over a governor's appointment, some Democrats argued Allen would represent business interests more than those of workers. They cited his opposition to the concept of a minimum wage. They also said his involvement in a conservative publication when he attended UNC-Chapel Hill suggests he's not sensitive to minorities.
"It's important for a candidate when considering being appointed to this kind of quasi-judicial position to clear the air ... clear that sea of ambiguity," said Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, recalling Allen's appearance at a committee meeting last week. But McKissick said Allen didn't resolve those matters for him.
Republicans came to Allen's defense, saying he had represented employees for years. They criticized colleagues for trying to malign him.
"I thought the gentleman was about as frank as he could be" during the committee, said Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow. They also downplayed any of his actions during college. "If we had to talk about what crazy things we might have done in college .... it seems to me we all would have problems in this place," said Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, R-Cabarrus, before the mostly party-line vote. One Republican present, Sen. Tamara Barringer, R-Wake, voted against Allen.
The Senate also completed the confirmation of Linda Combs of Winston-Salem as state controller, giving her unanimous approval, as the House did.
Combs, who assumed her post May 1 following McCrory's appointment, was controller of the United States during President George W. Bush's administration and served as chief financial officer at the Environmental Protection Agency. The state controller keeps the state's books, monitors cash flow and manages state payroll.
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