- Associated Press - Thursday, September 24, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Emails sent to and from former transportation secretary Tony Tata’s state government account suggest his abrupt resignation in July came with little advance planning.

Tata resigned July 28, citing family issues and an interest in pursuing a book career. Tata left the building within 80 minutes of the announcement, an agency spokesman said at the time.

Emails obtained Thursday by The Associated Press through a public records request include a calendar from Gov. Pat McCrory’s office for Cabinet secretaries showing Tata was scheduled for events through Aug. 13, including a trip to Nashville, Tennessee that was set to begin just four days after he left office.

After Tata left, his flight to the conference that began Aug. 1 was canceled, and his ticket to the event was transferred to Nick Tennyson, Tata’s top deputy, who later was named DOT secretary.

Tata did not attend a meeting of Cabinet secretaries that started just two hours before the governor announced Tata’s resignation. Instead, Tennyson, attended that meeting, DOT spokesman Mike Charbonneau said.

None of the emails released to the AP from the period before July 28 mentioned that Tata planned to resign.

Tata said his resignation letter citing his reasons for leaving was accurate. He said his schedule was prepared months in advance.

“My calendar was always three to four months in advance. Anything you see on the calendar, if it was in July, it was planned in April,” he said Thursday in a phone call from Paris.

Tata was still fulfilling his duties as DOT secretary on the day before his resignation, attending an event in Gibsonville, where local officials had converted a caboose into a train history exhibit.

Later that day, he wrote an internal memo to DOT employees calming job fears after news reports that legislators were weighing dozens of position cuts.

“While I understand that this news can be worrisome, it is important to understand that no cuts are definite at this point and we are continuing to work with the General Assembly to ensure that we have adequate staffing to carry out our mission,” wrote Tata.

It was that evening when he told McCrory he was resigning, Tata told The News & Observer of Raleigh at the time.

The retired U.S. Army brigadier general stoked controversy earlier this year when he left on a book tour hours before a predicted storm coated much of the state in ice, making roads treacherous. Tata, whose salary in 2014 was $136,000, has routinely made appearances on cable television news shows as a military and conservative political commentator.

He is also the author of several novels, his latest a thriller about a disgraced special-forces commando searching for an American traitor. In text messages Sunday, Tata said he signed a new book contract in July with dates of Nov. 15 and May 15, 2016, to deliver new novels.

“You know what a tall order that is to turn three (including the just completed one) 100K word books in less than a year,” he wrote.

Before being appointed as transportation secretary, Tata served as superintendent of the Wake County schools for less than two years. He was fired in September 2012 by a board that cited a strained relationship with Tata.


Martha Waggoner can be reached at https://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc

Emery Dalesio can be reached at https://twitter.com/emerydalesio

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