Gary Pendleton’s illegal campaign signs around Raleigh are the least of his problems. Pendleton, running for NC State House District 49 against Kim Hanchette has used a facsimile of legislative letterhead to solicit votes in apparent violation of Legislative Ethics Guidelines. Pendleton is a relatively new incumbent, having been appointed 8/18/2014 to the seat made vacant by the death of Jim Fulghum. Official legislative stationery or mailing privileges may not be used to solicit votes and, according to a recipient of such a letter, it did not contain a required clear disclaimer stating that the stationery was not printed or mailed at State expense.
The letter was sent in an envelope bearing a return address clearly stating in a formal font that it was from “Rep. Gary Pendleton, North Carolina General Assembly, House of Representatives” with a Post Office Box address which is actually that of Pendleton’s campaign committee. Like the letter, it did not contain a required clear disclaimer stating that the stationery was not printed or mailed at State expense.
In recent weeks the Pendleton campaign placed at least 18 oversized signs, 8 square feet in area, in at least 16 locations around Raleigh that were all illegal in one way or another. Typical political yard signs up to 6 square feet in area are generally allowed in public rights of way and on commercial and residential property but there are particular restrictions on larger signs.
As I stated in a complaint about the Pendleton’s apparent violation of campaign finance law to the State Board of Elections on October 16th:
“These double-sided printed signs, mounted on metal fence posts, have total dimensions of 24” x 48” (1152sqin in area). There is a white margin averaging 1” making for a printed area of 22” x 46” (1012sqin in area). There is a small legend of upper and lower case letters, with the upper case letters being 5/16” high. The most generous interpretation of the law would seem to require a legend of at least 1⅛” high letters.”
10 days later the signs were adorned with stickers bearing a taller legend, half of which were peeling off within 24 hours, but there was still a large issue of illegality. They are too large and too tall to be legally placed in a public right of way.
Signs in the public right of way are regulated by GS 136-32 and “Any person who shall violate any of the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.” Thirty days before the start of early voting “compliant political signs” permitted are but restrictions include:
(4) No sign shall be higher than 42 inches above the edge of the pavement of the road.
(5) No sign shall be larger than 864 square inches.
The Pendleton signs clearly violate these provisions. Within the City of Raleigh they are similarly too large to be placed on commercial property, as some were. The City of Raleigh exempts political signs of up to 6 square feet in area on commercial property. Of all of the signs, only one might be consider to be on residential property and even that straddled the property line at the right of way. Both the NC DOT and City of Raleigh were made aware of the violations but it does not appear that the speed of enforcement matches the frenetic pace of campaign activity approaching an election. There is little doubt that the Pendleton campaign expects to evade enforcement until after election day.
Meanwhile it appears that Pendleton’s campaign hopes that voters are slow to remember his arrogant past. Gary Pendleton is not the aisle-crossing moderate he’d like us to believe. He may be appear obsequiously pleasant in person during this campaign but he’s a slash-and-burn conservative politician at heart.
“If I was in the legislature, I would stand up on my desk and throw chairs” – Pendleton, 1996
After he first became Wake commission chair he unapologetically hired a crony as a consultant at $7,000/month while his first cost-cutting proposal was to fire school janitors (then making $14,000/year) and outsourcing to private contractors for less. Pendleton was opposed to opposite sex visitors to UNC dorms. In 1993 Pendleton objected to an Episcopalian priest being appointed to a homeless advisory committee because the priest was a peace activist who had been to Iraq.
Pendleton profited greatly selling insurance during the Martin administration when contracts were awarded to political cronies. When Jim Hunt was coming into office there were new rules intended to prevent that from happening in the future. Before Hunt took office Pendleton sold his business to Democratic heavyweight Wallace Hyde apparently persuaded Hunt to issue an order that the rules didn’t apply to extensions of existing contracts. This would explain why Jeannette Hyde, in addition to being a Director of North State Bank with Pendleton, would be predisposed to endorsing him. It was a sweet insider deal for both Hyde and Pendleton. He kept trying to build a public firing range with $3.2 million of Wake taxpayer money because he’s an avid hunter but cut money for libraries and sheriff’s deputies. It was easy to be be fooled by Pendleton.
“I’m like Jesse,” Pendleton said, referring to Sen. Jesse Helms. “I don’t think there are that many people who know me personally who dislike me. They dislike my politics.”
However in one respect he differed from Jesse Helms, and not in a good way. While serving as Wake County Commissioner Pendleton was crude and sexist:
“With your arm around my shoulder, you told me it would be a pole tax based on the length of a man’s penis, and would I be interested in helping to collect the data.”
– 1995 letter from Merrie Hedrick to Gary Pendleton objecting to his crude sexist humor.
Full Text as published in the Raleigh News & Observer in 1995:
I am writing you today on my birthday, which is also the celebration of Women’s Equality Day, which is when women were granted the right to vote seventy-five years ago. I decided to write you after our conversation on Thursday afternoon regarding the need for a uniformed officer at Wake Forest-Rolesville High school. I have thought about writing this letter for over six months, and have had mixed feelings about sending it to you for many reasons. I find now I am compelled to express to you my feelings.
I find it inappropriate for you to speak the way you do about, and to, other people. You shouted at me Thursday that the Wake Forest Mayor was an “ass-hole”, and our entire conversation was sprinkled with other expletives about town, county, and board officials. You told me that the issue I brought to you was something you were not going to spend your time on. You seemed arrogant, and aggressive in your speaking style, and left me wishing for someone who was interested in helping me solve the problem — not just verbally jousting. In the past when I served with you as a County Commissioner, you frequently sent notes to me and other commissioners during our meetings making jokes about people in our audience, or just plain insulting them. I remember one note asking me, “Merrie, If I nominate [a man] Queen for the Day, would you second it?” I remember another note you sent to me that said, “Merrie, if you were a man you would have brass balls.”
This past February at the County Commissioners retreat at Blue Jay Point, I was invited by the board to have dinner. After being welcomed you took me aside to tell me that you had developed a plan that would raise additional revenue for the county and you needed my help. With your arm around my shoulder, you told me it would be a pole tax based on the length of a man’s penis, and would I be interested in helping to collect the data. Well, what does a woman do (sic) at that point? Does she pretend laughter, fake a smile, blush, turn and walk away, or stand her ground and slap his face. I believe that I should have told you that your remarks were crude, disrespectful, degrading, intimidating, and insulting. Instead, I did nothing.
I tell you all this now because it has been burning inside me to say it for a long time. I am prompted now on behalf of other women, particularly other Wake County female employees, who may also have had similar experiences, and in response to the courage shown by the young woman page in the Legislature — and by my own daughter, Sallie. This summer, my daughter had the sense to step forward when a man at her summer camp made sexually explicit comments to her. She let it be known that he should not talk to her that way, and told both her Father and me. Bill then called the camp director, who immediately spoke to the man and made (sic) him apologize. His explanation was that “He was not sure at what age it was appropriate to speak to a girl that way.” Well, I am here to tell you that is never okay at any age to speak to a woman with disrespect.
Gary, I know that you would not like to be called names, or have your wife or daughter spoken to rudely. I believe you put yourself and Wake County in a position of liability by expressing yourself in this way. I have never written a letter like this before, and I hope you take it seriously. We have been “friends” but sadly, our friendship has been put in jeopardy because of your behavior.
Merrie R. Hedrick
There have been many signs of Pendleton’s arrogance. If elected Tuesday we’ll get to see more.
Update 1: For further reference, a link to a compendium of Legislative Ethics Committee, Ethical Principles and Guidelines, and Opinions, 1996 – 2012