The North Carolina Constitution says the terms of the governor and lieutenant governor "shall commence on the first day of January next after their election and continue until their successors are elected and qualified."
That means Mike Easley was no longer N.C. governor as of 1 January. But instead of retiring and leaving the business of state government to his successor, Easley used the interim between 31 December and 10 January (when Beverly Perdue was inaugurated) to make midnight political appointments of his cronies:
On Jan. 9, he appointed the daughter-in-law of a close ally to a judgeship, and he appointed an administration official to a seat on the state industrial commission.
Easley's supporters would say Perdue could not have been governor because she had not been inaugurated. No argument there. But neither could Easley have been governor, according to the letter of the law. UNC law professor John Orth says Easley must have been governor because "somebody's got to be in charge."As North Carolinians, it's time to demand that our elected officers begin to act based on legal ethics rather than political expediency. And the place to start is with the text of the Constitution.