Editorial: No consequences for powerful when they fail

Jul. 12, 2014 @ 02:57 PM

A couple hundred-thousand dollars here, a few hundred-thousands dollars there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.

It seems that dollar signs that aren’t followed by a least six digits don’t get the attention of anyone in a position of power anymore, and those same people will throw that amount of money around as though it’s walking-around money. Inevitably, they aren't the ones who pay the bill or suffer the penalties.

Example 1 from last week’s news: The executive overseeing the bankruptcy liquidation of what is left of Furniture Brands International, former parent company of such furniture brands as Broyhill and Thomasville, has missed all of the target dates that were set last December for her to earn a bonus by completing the liquidation quickly. Hitting the earliest target date would have meant a full year of extra pay -- which for her is $286,000. Hitting the last target would have been half that.

But nevermind, everyone apparently has agreed she deserves her 50 percent bonus anyway. Yes, she won’t get the full bonus, but then she’ll get extra time on salary. Anyone care to wager whether the extra time as a “consultant” will add up to the other 50 percent?

Sure, maybe the liquidation’s delays have been beyond her control. But try using that excuse with your boss.

Boss: “Sorry, but you missed all of your deadlines, so there will be no bonus.”

You: “But there was a hurricane that left the entire state without electricity for a week.”

Boss: “I’m aware of that, but these deadlines are in your contract. Deadlines are deadlines.”

Example 2 from last week’s news: The N.C. General Assembly’s inability to complete its work for the summer has now run into more than $550,000 in extra costs. The legislature’s sessions in even-numbered years are called “short sessions” because they are supposed to be brief and devoted primarily to making adjustments to the two-year budgets that are adopted in odd-numbered years.

Adjustments are required this year because the tax changes in the budget passed last year turn out to have cut state revenue by a whole lot more than any legislators publicly predicted.

Not insignificantly, the legislators – some, at least – also want to try to blunt the anger about how teachers have been treated by giving them a raise.

But rather than merely making adjustments to tweak the budget enough to get it back into balance and give teachers a raise, legislators have thrown in a whole bunch of other issues, including the Common Core school standards and eliminating the tenure rules that require teachers to receive due process before they can be fired.

All the extra issues and wrangling has resulted in the legislature completely missing the June 30 deadline for a budget to be in place. The new fiscal year began July 1. Legislators will return to Raleigh this week with no agreement in sight for bringing this “short” session to an end, which means the cost to taxpayers will only continue to mount. It's apparently running well over $250,000 a week.

But don’t count on anyone losing pay for this badly busted deadline.

Penalties and deadlines apply only to the little folks.