The Pulse

In newly created job, Richard Trumper will try to get ailing ReBuild NC disaster recovery program back on track

By: - January 20, 2023 1:50 pm
Richard Trumper, then the director of disaster recovery at OSBM, spoke at a legislative oversight hearing last fall. He’s taken a position at DPS to work on a troubled disaster relief program led by ReBuild NC. (Screenshot from legislative hearing)

Richard Trumper, director of disaster recovery at the Office of State Budget and Management, will move to the NC Department of Public Safety as the senior advisor for disaster recovery, DPS announced today.

He was appointed to the newly created position by DPS Secretary Eddie Buffaloe, Jr.

His first day will be Feb. 1.

“In this new role, Trumper will support initiatives to build long-term and stable recovery for North Carolinians following natural disasters. As part of an expanded, comprehensive approach to recovery, Trumper will work with department leaders, the N.C. Office of Recovery and Resiliency” — also known as ReBuild NC — “N.C. Emergency Management and other partners to get disaster survivors back in their homes faster,” DPS wrote in a prepared statement.

Policy Watch first reported yesterday that Trumper was leaving OSBM for a position at DPS. The department is over ReBuild NC and the Division of Emergency Management, both of which have roles in disaster recovery.

An ongoing Policy Watch investigation has revealed systemic mismanagement within ReBuild NC’s disaster relief program, led by director Laura Hogshead. This includes preferential treatment given to one contractor, Rescue Construction Solutions, as documented in weekly contractor meeting notes; a lack of accountability and transparency, as well as a pattern of half-truths.

Most important, though, is the harm to survivors of Hurricanes Matthew and Florence, which devastated North Carolina in 2016 and 2018, respectively. Thousands of people have been living for as long as three years in one-star motels or in their dilapidated houses waiting for repairs or reconstruction. At least a dozen people have died waiting to return home, according to state records and homeowner reports. Meanwhile, ReBuild NC has spent exorbitant amounts, upward of $15 million, to temporarily house survivors in motels, with family or very occasionally, apartments.

As of Jan. 11,  only 702 homes have been built or repaired under ReBuild NC’s disaster relief program. More than 4,100 North Carolinians have applied for help.

There has been no public indication that Hogshead is leaving the agency. However in his senior-level position, Trumper will likely have wide latitude to make changes and course correct as needed. DPS did not list his salary for the new job, but he currently earns roughly $100,000 at OSBM, according to state data. Hogshead’s annual salary is $144,000.

Trumper is a North Carolina licensed general contractor who joins the department with more than 22 years of experience, including program management, construction management, disaster recovery, reconstruction and restoration, mitigation and disaster damage assessment. In his current job, Trumper successfully developed and managed state-funded recovery, reconstruction and mitigation programs in 21 eastern North Carolina counties. Most recently, Trumper has led state recovery efforts in western counties impacted by the 2020 earthquake and Tropical Storm Fred.

“Our state has made substantial progress recovering from hurricanes Matthew and Florence, but we still have a long way to go,” Buffaloe said. “Richard Trumper brings a wide range of experience and expertise that will support a core mission of rebuilding homes and communities as fast as possible after a disaster, while also making them more resilient in the future.”

“I look forward to joining the Department of Public Safety and establishing new partnerships that will speed up the recovery process and help families return home more quickly,” added Trumper. “My goal will be to build on the good things we’re already doing.”

Homeowners impacted by hurricanes Matthew and/or Florence can still apply for assistance through the Homeowner Recovery or Strategic Buyout programs.

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Lisa Sorg
Lisa Sorg

Assistant Editor and Environmental Reporter Lisa Sorg helps manage newsroom operations while covering the environment, climate change, agriculture and energy.