- Associated Press - Friday, October 17, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - The botched selection of North Carolina’s poet laureate could have been avoided if Gov. Pat McCrory’s staff had paid attention to the criteria that was provided to them two days before her appointment, newly released emails show.

More than 100 emails released Friday in a public records request shed light on the appointment of Valerie Macon, who had self-published two books of poetry when she was named July 11. Macon, who was a disability examiner for the state, resigned as poet laureate after less than a week.

The emails indicate McCrory at least had a chance to review Macon’s appointment, based on the previous criteria, before he named her to the post July 11.

At a news conference the day before Macon resigned, McCrory said he was unaware the state had criteria to name poets laureate.

“We were not aware of the traditional process that was in place. It wasn’t written down anywhere on the walls,” McCrory said July 16.

When told the guidelines once were on the Arts Council’s website, McCrory replied: “We must have missed that website.”

McCrory said his staff recommended Macon to him. Previous poets laureate where chosen through a process that involved the N.C. Arts Council and included criteria such as having a statewide, national or international reputation.

On July 9, two days before naming Macon, the governor’s board and commission staff sought information about the position from the state Department of Cultural Resources. In response, someone in the department provided details about the requirements.

A press assistant in McCrory’s office acknowledged getting the email.

McCrory spokesman Josh Ellis said Friday that staff overlooked the criteria. “It has been addressed moving forward,” he said in an email.

Macon had already been chosen by the time that Beth Strandberg, in McCrory’s office, asked Jennifer Fontes of Cultural Resources for details about the position for a news release. Strandberg forwarded those qualifications to Jennifer Johnson, a McCrory press assistant who acknowledged receipt and said a press release was forthcoming on Macon’s appointment.

Four previous poets laureate criticized McCrory for bypassing the typical process, which they said had ensured the person selected was “a poet and educator of singular accomplishment.” The poet laureate typically serves a two-year term and receives a $15,000 stipend.

The Department of Cultural Resources is in the process of selecting a new poet laureate to recommend to McCrory, using a process more similar to the one used in previous appointments.

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