NNPA NEWSWIRE — Gov Ops, an abbreviation for Governmental Operations, is designed to probe into potential misconduct within state and local agencies, along with private entities funded by the state.
By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent | @StacyBrownMedia
North Carolina Republicans, wielding their veto-proof majority, have given the green light to create Gov. Ops, a new investigative body. Critics call it “secret police” and argue that this may be an overreach of power. “This secret police force can even come into, for example, a law firm that receives state funding for court-appointed lawyers,” warned Rep. Allison Dahle, a Democratic state lawmaker, during a debate over the bill. “This now means that the sanctity of the attorney-client privilege is now defunct.”
Gov Ops, an abbreviation for Governmental Operations, is designed to probe into potential misconduct within state and local agencies, along with private entities funded by the state. The jurisdiction covers contractors, subcontractors, state-run universities, and charitable organizations. “I don’t think I have ever publicly called the GOP leadership ‘authoritarian’ because that’s not a term I take lightly,” remarked State Sen. Graig Meyer (D). “But their approach to seizing power and covering up their tracks now fits the bill.”
One of the most hotly debated aspects of this development is the provision that prohibits subjects of Gov Ops investigations from publicly discussing alleged constitutional violations or misconduct by investigators. All communications with committee personnel are confidential, potentially curtailing transparency and accountability. Moreover, individuals under investigation by Gov Ops wouldn’t be allowed to seek legal counsel regarding their rights if the unit searched their property without a warrant, irrespective of whether the space is public or private. Democratic Governor Roy Cooper opposed the establishment of Gov Ops and saw his objections overridden by the Republican majority. Because of state law, which does not permit line-item vetoes, Cooper was unable to block the bill, resulting in it becoming law without his signature.
Democrats said they fear the implications of Gov Ops could extend to the state’s electoral processes. Following the 2020 presidential election, several North Carolina Republican lawmakers insisted on inspecting voting machines, alleging voter fraud. The new rule allows warrantless inspections without public notice. Scheduled to go into effect next week, Gov Ops has elicited strong reactions from lawmakers and experts alike. Political science professor Daniel P. Aldrich of Northeastern University voiced his concerns, writing on social media, “This consolidation of force and coercion is very worrying.”
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