Local News

Phipps' 'Friends, Enemies' In State Ag Dept. Scandal Revealed

Posted October 21, 2004

— Once-private documents do not offer much detail into the illegal cash and extortion scandal of former state Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps, but they provide a behind-the-scenes look at how her staffers circled the wagons to try to save her job.

Among the boxes of unsealed records from the Phipps administration were schedules and handwritten notes still labeled as government evidence. The boxes contain pictures of Phipps dancing with her dad at her inaugural ball. There were even cigars brought back from the commissioner's trade trip to Cuba.

Planning papers name Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, Insurance Commissioner Jim Long, and Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry among the friends.

The enemies' list stretches much longer from

News & Observer

reporter Joe Neff to Phipps' former campaign manager Brad Crone. Current Ag Commissioner Britt Cobb, then a marketing manager in the department, is on the "opposed" list along with the man he is now running against, Steve Troxler.

Strates Shows made the enemy page because it sued the department after losing the fair contract. Gov. Mike Easley's office and his predecessor, Jim Hunt, are listed as enemies.

Even longtime Agriculture commissioner Jim Graham was not considered friendly, even though he supported Phipps in 2000.

Although, they later pleaded guilty for their roles in funneling illegal cash to Phipps, former aides Bobby McLamb and Weldon Denny are also named as her enemies.

A total of eight people eventually pleaded guilty in the campaign finance scandal. Phipps received the harshest sentence. She is now serving a four-year prison term in West Virginia.

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