Regular CJ readers will remember Don Carrington‘s reporting of the bizarre circumstances surrounding a land deal involving the state and 36 acres in Beaufort.

State lawmakers had plenty of questions about the deal this morning during a meeting of the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations.

Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight, D-Dare, called the deal “shabby,” while Rep. Bill Owens, D-Pasquotank, called the circumstances “bad, very bad.”

Sen. Richard Stevens, R-Wake, questioned whether the deal strayed from normal state practices, and the toughest questioning came from Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham:

It’s just my opinion — number one — we’re paying twice for property. Number two is that this was a transaction that — even though they couch it as a gift, we paid for it through the Natural Heritage Trust Fund, which meant that property — once they paid for it — the property was supposed to be deeded to the state at the time they got it, which was in 1997. Number [three] is any transaction of this nature under the law must be brought before Gov. Ops. before it goes to the Council of State. That’s clear, and it has never come to us. They want to couch it now in terms of a gift — a gift that was paid for — and now we’re about to pay for it a second time. We need to have a better explanation — a clearer explanation — of what’s going on here.

That’s why Michaux asked colleagues to hold off on considering the deal until State Property Office Director Joe Henderson returns from medical leave. Lawmakers agreed to delay any final action in the matter.