RALEIGH, N.C. — There are almost 8,300 sex offenders on
North Carolina's registry
. Until this week, a Warren County woman was not one of them. The delay raised questions about what took so long and whether her high-ranking connections played a role.
Lisa Hayes' picture can now be found on the sex offender registry, but it comes two years later than the law requires. While working as a drug counselor at the federal prison in Butner, Hayes had consensual sex with an inmate in her care.
Hayes pleaded guilty to a federal sexual offense and received probation, but her picture was absent from the registry until this week, when the
raised questions about possible influence from U.S. Rep. Frank Ballance and Warren County Sheriff Johnny Williams.
When asked whether there was any political influence to try to hold off the process, Williams responded, "not with me."
Since Hayes was convicted of a federal misdemeanor, the sheriff said he sought an opinion from the attorney general whether she should be on the state registry. In April 2002, attorneys responded by saying the law requires she register.
At that point, Ballance got involved and asked for a second opinion. He knew Hayes because she had been working as a counselor at the John Hyman Substance Abuse Center in Warrenton, which Ballance founded. That foundation is now under
for questionable spending of state tax money.
On Thursday, Ballance told WRAL, "I did not interfere. My role was to inquire about the law. I didn't think her conduct was meant to be covered by the sex offender registry. The registry was designed for sexual predators. What she did was morally and legally wrong, but she is not a predator."
Despite Ballance's opinion, the Attorney General's Office responded in June 2002 stating again that, under the law, Hayes must register as a sex offender. Still, Williams did not put her there until two years later.
"I would describe it as slipped through the cracks, and I take the responsibility. I did not go back and follow up on it," he said.
Ballance admitted when he was a state senator, he considered filing legislation to keep people like Hayes off the registry. He said there was never enough support to go forward.