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Gov. McCrory's appointment, Charlton Allen has a racially dubious past

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Dressing up in Arab garb and attacking a Gulf War peace encampment. Protesting the construction of UNC's Black Cultural Center. Portraying a Jewish student presidential candidate with horns and a pitchfork on the front cover of his college magazine.

This is the man who Gov. Pat McCrory nominated for an important position on a state board that decides worker's compensation cases and the distribution of the eugenics compensation fund.

Last week, the N.C. House confirmed McCrory's appointment of Charlton L. Allen, a Mooresville lawyer and former Iredell County Republican party chairman, as a commissioner of the state Industrial Commission. A quasi-judicial six-commissioner board, it is intended to be a mechanism for workers involved in compensation disputes with their employers.

Historically, the commission has been composed of three pro-worker commissioners and three pro-business commissioners. Allen—an anti-worker, anti-minimum wage hardline conservative—will upset that balance. "He's being appointed in a position that should be an advocate of employees," said state Rep. Larry Hall, D-Durham. "It damages the institution. It destroys people's confidence in whether they can get a fair hearing."

In 2012, Allen ran for state representative in the District 95 Republican primary and lost to C. Robert Brawley by nearly 20 percentage points. In his CIVITAS candidate questionnaire, Allen stated his anti-labor views: He doesn't believe public workers should have collective bargaining rights. He doesn't believe that companies should be required to provide benefits like paid sick leave and lunch breaks. He described the minimum wage as "an unfair intrusion into the labor market."

Neither McCrory nor Allen was reachable for comment.

As an industrial commissioner, Allen would make final decisions on which victims—many of them African-American and Native American—receive payouts from the state's $10 million eugenics compensation fund.

However, Allen's past exploits as an UNC-Chapel Hill student in the '90s show a history of colossal racial and cultural insensitivity.

In 1993, Allen founded a conservative UNC campus publication called the Carolina Review. In it, he led an attack on Muslims, gays and immigrants, and challenged the construction of The Black Cultural Center. John William Pope, then a UNC trustee and Art Pope's father, was also an outspoken critic of the Black Cultural Center, saying it would lead to "resegregation."

A former student at the time, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, told the INDY that Allen and his Carolina Review friends would dress in fatigues at night and sneak around campus putting up anti-gay signs that said "God Created Adam and Eve—Not Adam and Steve." They also deposited an inflatable sheep at the headquarters of the campus Gay-Straight Alliance to equate homosexuality with bestiality. One issue of the Carolina Review featured a black man in a bull's eye. Some issues featured cartoons with pictures of Klansmen.

In 1991, according to an article in The News & Observer, a group of College Republicans, led by Allen dressed in "traditional Arab garb," raided and threw water balloons at a Persian Gulf War peace encampment.

This provocation peaked when Allen put a photo on the front cover of the Carolina Review of Aaron Nelson, a Jewish candidate for student body president. The picture had been altered to depict him with horns and a pitchfork. Inside, the article said, "The difference with [Aaron] Nelson is simple. He's Jewish."

This angered the national Anti-Defamation League. Then-UNC chancellor Michael Hooker censured the Carolina Review and it lost its faculty advisor.

The following month, swastikas appeared on campus and in the library. According to the Duke Chronicle, 45 books in the library were found defaced with swastikas and "KKK" written in black Sharpie. Nelson received hate mail and a Tupperware container of feces. His hall was also vandalized.

None of Allen's views on race or labor seems to have concerned Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, who sponsored Allen's nomination. Moore called Allen "highly qualified" and a friend.

House Democrats, though, voted against Allen's nomination, questioning whether a man so blatantly opposed to workers' rights could fairly adjudicate workers' rights cases.

"The Industrial Commission hears cases from employees who are supposed to have workers' comp insurance covering their injuries at work. When they are denied or turned down access to the coverage or don't receive the amount they feel they're entitled to, they go through this hearing process," said Rep. Hall.

GOP lawmakers further eroded the Industrial Commission's hearing process, in the final hours of the 2013 session. They changed the law to make hearing officers—charged with ruling on worker's comp cases before they went to the Commission—beholden to the McCrory administration.

"The hearing officers have had their independence taken away and it makes them look at their decisions as whether or not their decisions would reflect what the administration would want rather than justice," Hall said.

With Democrats impotent in the General Assembly, Allen's appointment is expected to breeze through the Senate, with the support of many state Republicans.

Rhonda Waugh, current chair of the Iredell County Republican Party said, "I think he will serve that commission very well. He has the background and the experience. He is a good fit for that commission."

This article appeared in print with the headline "Loose cannon"

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