A North Carolina Senate committee has recommended a conservative member for the state commission that hears worker’s compensation claims, a placement that critics say would make a majority of the board more likely to side with businesses.
In a 20-minute hearing Wednesday afternoon, the Senate Commerce Committee recommended Charlton Allen to the state Industrial Commission, a six-member board that is similar to a court and makes decisions when workers file compensation claims against their employers and on the state’s eugenics compensation fund.
Allen, a Mooresville attorney and a 2012 Republican contender for the state House of Representatives, was nominated by Gov. Pat McCrory and was approved last month by the House of Representatives. The full Senate is likely to concur at a hearing Monday. His appointment would begin July 1.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Democratic senators grilled Allen on whether he’d discriminated against minorities when he was a student at the University of North Carolina and founded a newspaper there. Some senators, including Sen. Clark Jenkins from Edgecombe County and Sen. Josh Stein from Wake County, quoted an article from the alternative newspaper IndyWeek that reported the Anti-Defamation league complained about the publication’s content when he was editor.
On multiple occasions, committee co-chair Sen. Wesley Meredith (R-Fayetteville), who presided over the hearing, interjected to Democrats’ questions and told Allen he did not have to answer some questions. At one point, Allen told the committee that his activities as a student in more than 20 years ago would have little bearing on his role as a member of the Industrial Commission.
Allen said in an interview that prospective members of the Industrial Commission, which has historically been composed of three pro-worker commissioners and three pro-business commissioners, shouldn’t be evaluated on their likelihood to side with one side or the other.
“Ultimately, it’s not about three and three,” Allen said. “It’s about making the right decisions that are fair for all parties.”