(KINSTON) -- A top House lawmaker is defending his leadership as head of a non-profit economic development group.
Rep. Stephen LaRoque, R-Lenoir, held a press conference in Kinston to address allegations raised by a recent article published by the progressive-leaning group, N. C. Policy Watch. The investigative report accuses LaRoque of collecting $195,000 in annual compensation and questionable management as the head of two non-profit organizations. East Carolina Development Company and the Piedmont Development Company received a total of $8 million in federal money since 1997 to provide loans to small businesses.
LaRoque justified his six-figure compensation, which he said is also used to pay for other expenses like employee salaries and benefits.
“I’ve got a set amount that’s based on the amount of assets managed – I get a percentage, plus a percentage if the company is profitable for that year, which means they make a profit just like any other business; and a percentage of the loan fee,” LaRoque explained. “These are incentives to help make additional loans and to help grow the organization.”
Sarah Ovaska, a former reporter with the Raleigh News and Observer and author of the NC Policy Watch article, pointed out that LaRoque still refuses to answer questions about exactly how much he makes.
“He claims that he’s had three employees since 1997, but I don’t think that accounts for his explanation that a lot his compensation went to pay his employees,” said Ovaska.
LaRoque said he’s not planning on releasing that information – nor will he have to – because the two non-profits are managed by his for-profit company, LaRoque Management. Likewise, he defended the business model.
“You’ve got to generate a profit in order to stay in business,” he added. “You can’t pay your bills, you can’t pay your staff if you’re not generating a profit. So non-profit doesn’t mean that you can’t make money. It just means that you’re not having to pay tax – you’re there for the public good.”
LaRoque stressed that board members were aware of his compensation and said it’s inaccurate for former board members to say otherwise. LaRoque also defended the decision to bring family members on the board of directors.