Local News

Norris, Two Others Accused Of Lobbying Law Violations

Posted May 22, 2006

— A former political director for House Speaker Jim Black is one of three former lottery company workers who have been charged with violating state lobbying laws, according to court documents released Monday.

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    Lobbying Violations

    Meredith Norris worked on staff in Black's office from 1999-2002, but quit to work as a lobbyist while staying with his campaign as a volunteer until late last summer.

    After a seven-month investigation, Wake County prosecutors have also charged former lottery commissioner Kevin Geddings, along with former Scientific Games International vice president Edward Alan Middleton, for failing to register as lobbyists last year with the Secretary of State's office.

    Middleton, 50, of Chapin, S.C., is also accused of helping Norris lobby illegally before she registered as a lobbyist. All of the charges are misdemeanors. If convicted, each could be barred from lobbying in North Carolina for two years but probably wouldn't serve any jail time.

    Scientific Games, a leading operator of state lotteries, paid Norris to work on its behalf last year while lawmakers were debating the lottery legislation.

    Norris, 32, said last fall she had only monitored lottery bills and didn't believe she needed to disclose her work. But records filed with the Secretary of State's office indicate that she had also taken lawmakers out to dinner, at a cost of $4,592.37. She is accused of working as an unregistered lobbyist from March 2, 2005, to Aug. 30, 2005, the day lawmakers gave final approval to a lottery.

    Norris is the second person in a week with ties to Black to face criminal charges. Geddings, 41, of Charlotte, was indicted last week on nine federal counts of mail or wire fraud. He is accused of failure to disclose that his consulting firm received nearly $230,000 from 2001 to 2005 either from Scientific Games or a company it later acquired.

    State prosecutors accuse Geddings of unlawfully lobbying last May 26, the same day that federal prosecutors contend he helped Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand, D-Cumberland, prepare for a public debate on the lottery.

    Black spokeswoman Julie Robinson said the speaker "does not know the details regarding these charges, and he is not involved, therefore, he believes it is inappropriate for him to comment on the legal matters of others."

    Black appointed Geddings to the commission last September but Geddings quit Nov. 1, hours before Scientific Games disclosed his financial connections to him. Black said he wouldn't have appointed Geddings to the commission had he known about his consulting work.

    Black said late last year that he regretted allowing Norris to remain his chief political assistant while lobbying the General Assembly. He has not been charged with criminal wrongdoing, although state prosecutors are considering whether he broke election laws for accepting incomplete checks from his fellow optometrists.

    All three of them have court dates scheduled for June 26, according to the warrants. Norris has been served her warrant, according to records, but it wasn't clear Monday if Geddings and Middleton had been formally notified of the charges against them.

    An attorney for Norris told WRAL that she never willfully violated lobbying laws. Attorneys for Geddings, Middleton and Scientific Games didn't immediately return phone calls Monday to The Associated Press. Geddings said last Friday he was innocent of the federal charges filed against him.

    A state lobbying violation is a misdemeanor. If convicted, a person likely faces a fine, community service and a suspension from lobbying.

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