RALEIGH, N.C. — Congressman Frank Ballance said Monday he has no plans to resign.
A drug rehabilitation program, started years ago when Ballance was in the legislature, is closed and under investigation. Critics believe Ballance should step aside.
Ballance talked publicly for the first time Monday about the impact the controversy is having on his ability to serve the people of the first district.
"I think we've done a pretty good job of staying on focus," Balllance told WRAL's David Crabtree during an interview in the TV station's newsroom.
He has been focusing on his job while the legal focus has been on him.
Last fall, the state auditor issued a blistering report on the Hyman Foundation. Financial records were in a mess. Certain reports were not filed. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were in question.
Through all of it, Ballance has kept his cool.
"Obviously, it's been an issue that's come up from time to time," Ballance said. "But we've tried very hard to focus on what we're doing -- what we were sent to Washington to do."
Ballance said, for legal reasons, he cannot talk about the specifics of the ongoing investigation. But he said it would not drive him from office.
"This is the way I look at it," he said. "I was elected by the people of the First District to serve. If there comes a time that I should not serve further, then it's the decision the people ought to make, and I'm satisfied with that."
Ballance said his constituents rarely bring up the investigation, and he tells them he will run for a second term.
One potential opponent -- G.K. Butterfield, a former member of the state supreme court -- is no stranger. Ballance and Butterfield are friends, and Butterfield swore Ballance in.
Butterfield has said he may challenge his old friend for his political seat.
"I've been a bit surprised that he's taken the position he's taken," Ballance said. "But, I suppose we're still friends."
Ballance said his greatest regret is that those who were being served by the Hyman Foundation have nowhere to turn for free drug rehabilitation.