RALEIGH — When Gov. Bev Perdue took office nearly a year ago she was regarded as the female version of a good ol' boy, someone who had worked her way up through the Democratic legislature by learning to play along.
Since then, Perdue has sought to reshape her image into that of a reformer. On Wednesday, she signed three executive orders to strengthen ethics requirements for members of state boards and commissions.
"Folks really do need to feel comfortable in North Carolina and in America that folks who work in the public are working in the best interests of the state, never for personal gain," Perdue said at a news conference.
It is second wave of reforms that Perdue has made in what some see as an effort to distance herself from the string of Democratic scandals or investigations that have shaken the Capitol in recent years. Those include the imprisonment of former House Speaker Jim Black, the continuing investigation of former Gov. Mike Easley, the wining-and-dining of state employees involved with a state contract with Verizon, and the purchase of expensive surveillance equipment by several agencies from a company connected to powerful Sen. Tony Rand.
In January, Perdue moved to lessen the influence of political appointees on the state Board of Transportation by turning over more decisions to highway engineers. She also released records maintained by the Highway Patrol on Easley's travel that have contributed to Easley's current troubles. She has taken steps to make state government more transparent, such as making sure governmente-mail messages are retained longer and making death records at mental health facilities more readily available.
"Clearly, the governor recognizes what everybody else has recognized, and that is that there's a crisis in confidence in our governmental ... leadership," said state Rep. Pryor Gibson, an Anson County Democrat. "People now expect a higher standard of accountability."
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