2013 Falls into Placeclientuploads/Archive_Images/2014/01/Joker-2.jpg

An array of last year's executive excess, financial failings and baleful blunders. In other words, business as usual. 

By Spencer Campbell
 
Fair-weather sponsor
Michael Waltrip Racing Inc. lost its sponsorship deal with NAPA Auto Parts after it got busted manipulating the finish of a race. One of the Cornelius-based team’s drivers spun out to prevent a driver from a different team from winning in Richmond, Va. The Atlanta-based car-parts supplier — which had backed the namesake owner since 2001 — could no longer endorse the team because it “believes in fair play.”

Attorney General Buford T. Justice
Last summer, N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper got a restraining order against Robert McElreath and his businesses, which restored Pontiac Trans Ams to look like the ride Burt Reynolds’ character drives in Smokey and the Bandit. The Buncombe County man allegedly received more than $2.2 million for work that was never suitably finished. “We want to stop bandits from making off with people’s money,” Cooper quipped.

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Can’t beat City Hall
Think so? The U.S. Senate confirmed former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx’s appointment as U.S. transportation secretary in June, about a month before his previous employer filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The Charlotte Observer also reported that the FBI investigated allegations that DesignLine USA LLC — which makes hybrid and electric buses and hired Foxx as deputy general counsel in 2009 — installed used parts in new buses.

Carole Perkins contributed $100 to the campaign of Nancy Vaughan, a Greensboro City Council member running against her ex-husband, the incumbent mayor. She told The News & Record the donation speaks for itself. Vaughan, who beat Robbie Perkins by 19 percentage points in November, agreed that money talks. … In June, Waxhaw commissioners suspended credit-card privileges for Mayor Daune Gardner, who was facing a DWI charge, after she charged beer and wine to the town’s tab. At least it wasn’t crack, right, Toronto? … The High Point City Council asked Mayor Bernita Sims to resign in September, saying her financial problems were causing discord among council members. She declined and was later indicted on a charge of passing a bad check for $7,000. To her sister.

For the birds
In November, Duke Energy Renewables agreed to pay $1 million in fines and restitution related to the deaths of 14 golden eagles over three years at two wind farms in Wyoming. The unregulated arm of Charlotte-based Duke Energy Corp. also paid for radar to detect when the birds — not endangered but shielded by the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act — fly near its turbines.

Try getting that through the eye of a needle
Local media broke the story in October that Charlotte preacher Steven Furtick was building a $1.6 million,16,000-square-foot house in Waxhaw. His megachurch’s chief financial officer tried to quell the hell raised by noting that only 8,400 square feet of it will be heated, and Furtick, who placed the 19-acre property in a trust, told his congregation: “It’s not that great a house.” Graceland — Elvis Presley’s mansion in Memphis, Tenn. — is 17,552 square feet (though its website doesn’t say how much of that is heated).

Slaps in the Facebook
Belk Inc.’s Facebook page became a battleground in May, when a Myrtle Beach, S.C., radio station aired an ad mentioning the retailer during Rush Limbaugh’s show. Though the Charlotte-based department-store chain explained that a vendor had run the spot, liberals were upset that Belk seemed to be supporting him, and conservatives were miffed that Belk didn’t. “This is why we don’t advertise on talk radio,” a spokeswoman told The Charlotte Observer.

Vitriol again filled the retailer’s Facebook page when its website crashed on Black Friday, preventing shoppers from snagging specials. The extension of an online coupon didn’t soothe shoppers’ anger. One Facebook wag wondered, “Do you by chance use the same website developer as obamacare?”

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Thirteen North Carolina banks vanished through failure, merger into or acquisition by other financial institutions in the year that ended Sept. 30, the most since 1995. But it was the big boy — Charlotte-based Bank of America Corp. — that made the most headlines. Here’s a sampling: … The Dow Jones industrial average booted the bank from its index of 30 blue-chip stocks in September because its stock price was so low. … BofA agreed in August to pay $160 million to black financial advisers at its Merrill Lynch unit who contended they were paid less than white peers. (That happened before BofA bought the investment bank in 2009.) A month later, it settled with women workers who claimed they were discriminated against. In still another case, a judge ruled that more than 2,000 black job applicants were, too. … The bank finished last on American Customer Satisfaction Index’s ranking of the largest commercial banks in the U.S. for the third year in a row. A spokesman — and this is no joke — said the bank was pleased with its progress.

She had her heart set on the car but got probation
A former Fayetteville postal worker was found guilty of workers’ compensation fraud in September, her deceit undone by an appearance on The Price is Right television show in 2009. Cathy Cashwell claimed a shoulder injury prevented her from lifting mail into trucks, but it didn’t hinder her spinning the big wheel. Twice.

Crash-test dummy
In November, a private contractor working on the N.C. Department of Transportation’s traffic-alert network mistakenly made an in-house test message public. The dispatch warned drivers of a fictional accident in Raleigh, the cause of which was trifold: “Women Drivers, Rain, Obama Care.”

clientuploads/Archive_Images/2014/01/Cam_Tshirt.jpgEverybody makes mis-states
Nike Inc. started selling a line of NFL T-shirts this summer, their most prominent feature being outlines of teams’ home states. The Carolina Panthers, based in Charlotte, were included. Its home state, however, was not. The team’s logo and state’s initials were printed within South Carolina’s borders.

Jumping the gun
After one of his shirts sparked criticism this summer, a Durham clothing designer pledged 20% of the proceeds to the North Carolina Victim Assistance Network. That was before he consulted the Raleigh-based nonprofit, which declined his offer. Seems it was wary of being connected with a shirt that reads: “I’d rather be shot in Durham than die of boredom in Cary.”

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Nobody knows the troubles Pat McCrory has seen, nobody knows but Barack Obama. Both suffered headaches caused by their Departments of Health and Human Services. The president’s flubbed the rollout of Obamacare; the governor’s, under Secretary Aldona Wos, was a source of woe throughout the year. … In February, Wos appointed Dianna Lightfoot to oversee the state’s pre-K program, even though Lightfoot was an outspoken foe of public preschool. In the furor that followed, she quit before starting work. … In August, McCrory claimed two 24-year-olds who had worked on his campaign staff got high-level, high-paying DHHS jobs because they were more qualified than other applicants. But The Associated Press reported that the department couldn’t prove the positions were ever advertised or anybody else considered. … You get what you pay for: Though Wos is working for only $1 a year, she has had to bring in consultants whose contracts total hundreds of thousands of dollars. … A comparison between our Democratic prez and Republican guv wouldn’t be complete without a website disaster. McCrory’s was NCTracks, the $484 million Medicaid management-information system launched in July — though State Auditor Beth Wood said it hadn’t been properly tested. In December, she said more than 3,200 defects in the system had been reported and DHHS lacks a plan to address them. The acronym of the office overseeing things? OMMISS (seriously).

He wanted to write off 
all those losses to Carolina
Ex-N.C. State University basketball coach Sidney Lowe was arrested in February for failing to file state income taxes in 2009, 2010 and 2011, his last three years with the Wolfpack. He made around $900,000 a year coaching State, which went 86-78 — including a 1-10 mark against rival UNC Chapel Hill — during his five-year tenure.

Cheaters never win
CaroMont Health attracted national attention after unveiling a new tagline: “Cheat Death.” Much of it was negative. The campaign, which Chapel Hill-based ad agency Immortology LLC consulted on, was killed off, and the Gastonia-based health system fired CEO Randall Kelley in April, citing the macabre slogan and his management style.