Gov. Roy Cooper’s nominee for secretary of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, former Rep. Larry Hall, did not show up for his second confirmation hearing on Wednesday after missing the first hearing at the beginning of this month.
Sen. Wesley Meredith (R-Cumberland), co-chair of the Senate Commerce and Insurance Committee, before which the confirmation hearing was to be held, made a statement at Wednesday’s committee meeting after Hall failed to show.
“As you all know, last week a three-judge panel denied Gov. Cooper’s request to continue blocking Senate confirmation of his cabinet secretaries, as provided for in the state constitution,” he said. “Yet, once again, his nominee is a no-show. We are very disappointed Gov. Cooper has ordered Secretary Larry Hall not to participate in this fair, open and transparent hearing process.”
Meredith outlined a list of facts to establish that Hall has been formally nominated to the post of Secretary of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs saying that on January 13 Cooper announced him as his nominee, on January 16 Hall resigned from the state House and that on Tuesday he attended a meeting of the Military Affairs Commission as the secretary.
“So it is hard to conceive how anyone could argue with a straight face that he is not yet nominated,” Meredith said. “As we have said all along, the purpose of the confirmation hearings is to determine whether Gov. Cooper’s cabinet secretaries are capable, qualified, without conflicts of interest, and willing to follow the laws of our state and nation.”
Meredith said that Hall, at Cooper’s behest, is openly defying the change to state law giving the Senate oversight over the confirmation process.
Just before the first hearing, a three-judge panel of the Wake County Superior Court handed down the ruling blocking Part III of .
The change requiring that the Senate approve Cooper’s picks to head some state agencies came in the 2016 bill, which cited the state Constitution, Article III sec. 5(8): “The governor shall nominate and by and with the advice and consent of a majority of the Senators appoint all officers whose appointments are not otherwise provided for.”
Cooper’s request for a preliminary injunction in the case was denied last week so the Senate decided to move ahead with the confirmation process.
Meredith said that by disrespecting this process, Secretary Hall is openly defying a law that has been backed up by the courts and is plainly allowed in the constitution.
“While, through his actions, Gov. Cooper has made clear he doesn’t always respect and follow the law, Secretary Hall took an oath of office and must uphold it,” he said. “He has a fiduciary duty to the people of this state to obey the law, even if the governor directs him not to. As of right now, Secretary Hall is failing one of the three basic tests we need to see to prove basic fitness for the role he is currently serving. That is one of the criteria we will consider when determining whether to move his nomination forward.”
Meredith said that Hall will be given a third chance to appear before the committee on Thursday.
“Secretary Hall is a former member of the General Assembly and longtime colleague,” Meredith said. “We have tried to afford him every courtesy because we believe he has a great deal of respect for this institution. So we will give him one more opportunity tomorrow to come back before this committee, follow the law and answer questions about his qualifications and background, just like President [Donald] Trump’s cabinet nominees did before the U.S. Senate. If he does not, he should bear in mind there are consequences when state officials refuse to follow the law. This meeting is adjourned.”
The three-judge panel, in its ruling earlier this month, said that it found that continuing with the confirmation process would be likely to “sustain irreparable harm” and the issuance of the temporary restraining order (TRO) would protect Cooper’s right while litigation moves forward better than moving forward with the confirmation process while working to settle Cooper’s claim.
The TRO cleared the way for Cooper’s nominees to take their positions, unimpeded by the legislature, saying that Cooper’s “selections of the individuals to lead the principal executive departments will not be disrupted in their daily activities to faithfully execute the laws.”
But the most recent ruling denying Cooper’s request for a preliminary injunction is what the justification legislature hung its authority on to move forward with the confirmation process.