The Locker Room

Government surveillance takes a new direction

Posted by John Hood at 08:40 AM

This story out of the Salisbury Post has to be read in its (lengthy) entirety to be believed. As also reported in briefing in a piece linked to our Carolina Journal Online site today, it seems that the county government in Rowan County has spent years and tens of thousands of dollars on a probe by private investigators into the authorship of a series of letters from “the Department of Common Sense” to officials and local media questioning the use of taxpayers’ money for local projects such as the Fiedcrest Cannon stadium.

The investigation concluded by fingering a sitting county commissioner, Arnold Chamberlain. He didn’t know about or approve the private-investigator contract. In fact, most of the commission did know about or approve it. But some members did, as did the county manager, Tim Russell. He says the investigation became serious after 9/11, when security concerns grew, but the letters never threatened violence and the invoices began before 9/11.

Some excerpts:

Russell said he and commissioners were concerned about having someone who is obviously so angry working with them daily and the possible consequences. . .

"What do you do to protect a board of commissioners?" asked Russell. "You don't know what is going to happen.” . . .

"The first time I ever knew of any investigation being paid for by the taxpayers was Tuesday. This was sprung on me," Chamberlain said Monday. "I am shocked and amazed, shocked that I am being accused and investigated, amazed that taxpayer money is being spent like this. . .

When [Chamberlain} went to his office in the County Administrative Offices Building on Thursday, he asked to see the boxes of letters from the Department of Common Sense.

Chamberlain said Rita Foil, clerk to the board, consulted Commissioner Blount on the phone and said repeatedly, "We don't think you should have them."

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