Guilford County Attorney Mark Payne – like most city and county attorneys – tries to stay out of the limelight.
However, due to a key role that he has played in the gigantic lawsuit against opioid makers and distributors, staying out of the news has gotten pretty difficult for Payne.
Recently, at the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners’ annual conference, Payne was one of the recipients of the association’s Presidential Recognition Award for his contributions to the “5-5-5 committee” – which also goes by the less interesting name of “County Opioid Settlement Working Group.”
Payne and other members of that committee have put in a whole lot of extra work for the past two years to develop a statewide “Memorandum of Agreement” that outlines how to disperse the funds. In other words, they’ve had the very difficult task of determining how that money is split up.
And it’s a whole lot of money coming North Carolina’s way. The latest estimates are that the state could see $750 million out of what in the end could amount to a $26 billion settlement. While a good part of the deal seems to be settled, the massive agreement still has to make it across the finish line. Last week, some states were still deciding if they would participate and an opioid company executive was demanding immunity from all future claims if this deal is accepted.
Payne recently told the Rhino Times that, even in a best-case scenario, it would take at least five months before Guilford County saw any money from the settlement.
The numerical name for the committee refers to the fact that it includes five county commissioners, five county attorneys and five county managers. County officials from Buncombe, Burke, Catawba, Dare, Forsyth, Graham, Guilford, Martin, Mecklenburg, Moore, Nash, New Hanover, Orange, Person and Rockingham counties served on the 5-5-5 Committee.
That committee has been working since 2019 – in collaboration with the association of counties and the NC Department of Justice – to work out a fair and agreeable distribution of the proceeds from the national opioid litigation.
The State of North Carolina and individual local governments within it are expected to get some of the proceeds.