A “Technical Correction” in a North Carolina House Bill Created Her New Job
Checks and Balances Project (C&BP) was the first to report that a woman romantically involved with North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore was given a high-paying job at the Department of Insurance (DOI). Although it is unclear when she was interviewed, 11 days after a vacant civil servant attorney position was reclassified as political, Jennifer Gray received an offer letter from Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey. She was the only candidate interviewed for the position that she described as Associate General Counsel.
Five Months Later, A More Powerful Position
According to public records obtained by C&BP, five months after Ms. Gray was given the first position, a legislative appropriation that originated in the House provided funding for a second position that she now holds with the title of Chief-Fraud Control Prosecutions.
That job, which is also a political position, includes the power to decide if bail bonds company fraud case files are complete and if the evidence supports prosecution or not. In short, Jennifer Gray has the power to pursue or sideline cases against individual players and companies in the powerful North Carolina bail bonds industry.
House Bill Creates Job
Speaker Moore’s House of Representatives enabled the creation of Ms. Gray’s powerful new position by inserting a “technical correction” into HOUSE BILL 528. The technical correction specifically called for “up to two special prosecutors… to aid local district attorneys’ offices in prosecuting cases… as they relate to insurance fraud.”
The House of Representatives passed the bill on June 30, 2017. It was presented to Governor Cooper and became law without his signature. Insurance Commissioner Causey’s deputy Michelle Osborne signed the Position Description Form creating the position of Chief-Fraud Control Prosecutions on August 3, 2017.
When C&BP interviewed DOI General Counsel John Hoomani on Oct. 1, 2018, we asked him about the purpose of the new position of Chief, Fraud Control Prosecutions:
Questions from the Start
Exactly when Ms. Gray was interviewed is important. If she was interviewed prior to her first job being reclassified as political, it would be an apparent violation of North Carolina’s policy for selecting employees. That policy states that a finalist for regular state jobs must be selected from a pool of applicants with no political influence. Although DOI Spokesperson Marla Sink said that Gray was interviewed by General Counsel Hoomani, he seemed to have no memory of it when we spoke with him. We asked for emails that accompanied Gray’s resume and set up the interview, and though Ms. Sink said she would send them on Oct. 1, we have yet to receive them.
Speaker Tim Moore admits he sent Ms. Gray’s resume to DOI and was romantically-involved with her at the time. On Oct. 5, he told WRAL News:
“Jennifer and I are no longer in a relationship, but we remain close friends.”
Increased Scrutiny of Moore
Speaker Moore is under growing scrutiny. The News & Observer reported on October 8, 2018, that Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman asked the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) to look into concerns about Moore’s work for developer Neal Hunter, as well as a separate case “where Moore’s private legal work preceded controversial state legislation involving bail agents.”
On October 12, WBTV reported that Speaker Moore was the recipient of a questionable campaign contribution from bail bonds company owner Lyne Thompson and Mark Bibbs, a former bail bonds company lobbyist. Moore says his campaign will donate the $1,000 to charity. According to an SBI affidavit cited in the story,
“Bibbs and Moore were college roommates and were still close through the time of the October 2016 contribution, ‘as evidenced by email and text messages’ reviewed during the investigation.”
These facts raise questions:
- Since Jennifer Gray has been in her new position, has there been an increase in the number of insurance fraud and bail bonds cases referred to district attorneys?
- Have there been bail bonds cases that were investigated but not forwarded to district attorneys?
- Have there been any communications between Moore and Gray about these cases?
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Scott Peterson is executive director of Checks and Balances Project, an investigative blog that seeks to hold government officials, lobbyists and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP comes from sustainable economy philanthropies and other donors.
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