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Auditor Les Merritt; Triangle congressional delegation; N.C. Highway Patrol; University housekeepers 

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N.C. State Auditor Les Merritt is moonlighting again, this time as an unpaid director on the board of the Four Oak Banks in Zebulon. In a Sept. 5 letter to Merritt, political consultant Joe Sinsheimer called him out for being a paid director—which Merritt denied—and for reneging on his promise to discontinue his side business as a financial adviser. According to Sinsheimer's letter, Merritt vowed in April to quit his part-time gig because it was a distraction "to the good work that this [auditor's] office is doing." Paid or unpaid, Merritt should have enough work to keep him busy as the state taxpayers' watchdog.

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The Triangle congressional delegation—U.S. Reps. David Price, Bob Etheridge and Brad Miller—voted for the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, which increases the dollar amounts for Pell Grants, invests $510 million in minority-serving colleges and universities, and makes student loans easier to repay by cutting interest rates. According to Price, the bill is paid for by reducing excessive federal subsidies paid to lenders. Unfortunately, several Republican N.C. lawmakers voted against the bill, including Virginia Foxx, Howard Coble and Patrick McHenry.

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The N.C. Highway Patrol says its primary mission is to make the highways of North Carolina as safe as possible, but some of its troopers pose the greatest dangers. Recently, one trooper was charged with DWI, another was fired for allegedly abusing a police dog, a third allegedly targeted women for traffic stops, and a fourth is suspected of abducting two Hispanic women. Applicants for trooper positions must pass several exams, including psychological evaluations, but those tests apparently failed to weed out the rogues.

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They're largely invisible unless there's a mess that needs cleaned up, but university housekeepers were honored at UNC-Chapel Hill during International Housekeeping Week, which runs through Sept. 15. They have the thankless tasks of emptying trash, washing windows and mopping up Sunday morning's puke from the dorm bathrooms. And their annual pay? At UNC, $20,112-$24,634; at Duke, $20,800-$27,500; and at N.C. State, $20,112-$32,000. According to 2007 statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the federal poverty level for a family of four is $20,650.



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