Local Politics

Panel: Wright Should Be Expelled for Misconduct

Posted March 6, 2008
Updated March 7, 2008

— A legislative panel Thursday recommended that state Rep. Thomas Wright, D-New Hanover, be removed from office for mishandling about $340,000 in campaign contributions, loans and charitable donations.

The full House will have to hold a special session to vote on whether to remove Wright from office. The General Assembly has not expelled a sitting lawmaker since 1880.

"He has, in my opinion, disregarded his oath of office, disgraced the House of Representatives and dishonored himself by his conduct," said Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, who chaired the special legislative ethics committee.

After four days of testimony – in which Wright's side did not present any evidence – the panel found Wright guilty of six counts of ethical misconduct, including not reporting $180,000 in campaign contributions.

"(There is) overwhelming evidence supporting this count, and there is no reasonable alternative," Glazier said. "Indeed, almost no attack was made, no evidence was presented to justify, even in closing arguments, any of these violations."

Witnesses told the legislative panel Wednesday that Wright pocketed $8,900 in corporate donations to a foundation he directs and failed to report another $185,000 in campaign contributions. That latter amount was reduced to $180,000 on Thursday after a State Board of Elections official determined three contributions in question had been properly reported.

"At some point, Representative Wright went astray. Why, we don't know," Willaim Hart, a senior deputy attorney general, said.

Wright's lawyers said they chose not to present any evidence to protect their legal strategy for Wright's upcoming crimminal trial on similar charges. The attorneys did, however, repeatedly question how prosecution witnesses arrived at their conclusions.

Defense attorney Irving Joyner said he believed Kim Strach, deputy director of the State Board of Elections, made assumptions about what she found as she reviewed Wright's campaign-finance records.

Strach said Wright would report making payments to people, but the amounts listed in campaign reports did not match those on canceled checks. He also mingled personal and campaign funds, she said, which raises flags for investigators.

In closing arguments, Deputy Attorney General Bill Hart said evidence presented during the four-day hearing clearly proved Wright engaged in unethical and improper conduct.

"What we have seen is evidence of fraud. What we have seen is a violation of trust," Hart said. "What we have presented to you is a striking pattern of impropriety."

Joyner said in his closing arguments that the information presented by the state was murky and unclear.

Wright, who also faces criminal charges stemming from the same allegations, has denied any wrongdoing. His attorney has said Wright is guilty of nothing more than sloppy bookkeeping and has argued that the legislator is being persecuted because he is black.

The General Assembly has expelled 11 members since its creation. The last was Josiah Turner of Hillsborough, who was censured and expelled in 1880 for improprieties and a disrespectful manner.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • whatusay Mar 7, 2008

    There should be term limits for all elected officials...Two terms at the most, and you are out. Also, no retirement and no free lifetime medical once you are gone. And, the voters should vote yes or no on a pay raise. I can't believe we have lifetime politicians who get wealthier and wealthier on the backs of taxpayers. I will never vote for anyone who has held office for over 2 terms, especially a Senator.

  • x Mar 7, 2008

    I whole heartedly agree with djofraleigh about Perdue and don't you know she was not alone in that conspiracy? Interesting how our democratic governor has stayed above all the frey? He was like a hit dog with the DHHS firing this week. All these democrats running our state government need to be cleaned out and find real work in the private sector. Wright is just another pimple on the face of NC state government.

  • Run_Forrest_Run Mar 7, 2008

    Why do I hear the Vonage music in my head? Whoo Hoo Whoo Hoo Hoo!

    Expell him, incarcerate him, make him pay restitution!

  • colliedave Mar 7, 2008

    WRAL needs to provide a live telecast of his expulsion.

  • snizzake Mar 7, 2008

    The Fox, yruatwit, djofraleigh, sentramom... ALL hit their nails on the respective heads!! I hope that African American voters, and all other voters for that matter, realize that Wright has done them WRONG by playing the race card here. Let this be another step in the "Wright" direction towards prosecution of ALL unethical, irresponsible, and criminal politicians in this state and in this country!

  • Tolip Mar 7, 2008

    Had enough yet Noth Calina? Scum and dirt dealers running our State? When are the decent people going to take our State back from these crooks? Only you can fix it! Stop the gerrymandering which allows these crooks to get re-elected year after year! Vote these crooks out of office, period.

  • OLD PIRATE 2 Mar 7, 2008

    I hope the IRS is following this story

  • The Fox Mar 7, 2008

    1. Get elected
    2. Get appointed to committees & boards controlling monies.
    3. Create charity and/or foundation.
    4. Fund it with tax payer monies and contributions.
    5. Loot it.

    Seems to be the pattern here in NC Government.

  • jackadoo Mar 7, 2008

    Whatever they do to punish him, his constituents will re-elect him.

  • whatelseisnew Mar 7, 2008

    Once these politicians are in office long enough they perceive themselves to be untouchable. Kudos to this committee and I certainly hope the full legislature votes to move Wright out of there as fast as possible. Next should the criminal charges result in a guilty verdict put him in the worse jail we have