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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Robert W. (Bob) Scott, February 11, 1998. Interview C-0336-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Defending the patronage system

Scott confesses that he does not see anything wrong with the patronage system, per se, though he admits that the negative perception of patronage can be troubling. Still, Scott wonders, if a governor cannot set up their own government, how can that governor do their job?

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Robert W. (Bob) Scott, February 11, 1998. Interview C-0336-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

As you know, as we speak, Governor Hunt is dealing with the very issue that you just mentioned, in terms of the composition of what's now called the board of transportation, and there are questions raised about how those people are selected and what might influence them in making those decisions. Was that a concern during your administration that you had to deal with?
No, it was not. That was the way they did business then, if you will. Now, what you always hope for is that the people you put in these positions, even though they may have been active in your campaign, raised money or got votes for you or whatever, that when they get in, they're going to be people of personal integrity and will not use the position they have for their personal benefit. I don't see anything wrong at all with having the people who enabled you to get in office, to be elected, from being rewarded, in a sense, for their efforts—the patronage system, I think, there's nothing wrong with that. It's where the individuals come in, and sometimes there's no way you can know this, but once they get there, then they don't see the difference between doing something that, yes, it does benefit the public, alright, but it also benefits them. And they say, "Well, yeah, but if it benefits others too…" It's the perception, you know. And sometimes they fail to see that, and get you in trouble. You just hope that that doesn't happen. I had it happen to me a couple of times, on the highway commission. In one instance, a man who's very well-thought of today, and was then, a great benefactor of Western Carolina University, he ran the rock quarry, and he sold the state some gravel for a road, and it was documented and proven that it was far cheaper for the state to buy from him was because was close to the, his gravel pit was near the place it was being done. And if they had gotten it from somebody else, it would have cost them considerably more. But that didn't matter. And so I asked him to resign, or he volunteered to resign. It was the perception. He did benefit from it personally. And there was one other down at Greenville. And I did have to ask him to resign. So, I'm getting philosophical here, what boggles me about all this concern and the media attention on the department of transportation today in 1998—if the governor can't in some way reward those, and I'm not talking about monetarily, but recognize those who labored hard to get him elected governor, then what reason is there to try to get somebody? You don't work that hard just because you like somebody, as a general rule. And you say, "Well, maybe you ought to have some other process by which you appoint these people." If the governor can't set up his administration like he wants to, with people he has confidence will follow his policies and so on, this is to me a very, very difficult thing to govern. What you're apt to do is hope, try as best you can and hope that you get people in there who will have a high sense of ethics. Now, admittedly, our society and our culture's changing, and I don't know, maybe the old way doesn't work any more. I don't know.