Documents: Lobbyists under investigation for Speaker's office scandal

Posted June 5, 2012

— According to confidential documents obtained by WRAL News, the North Carolina State Ethics Commission will investigate lobbyists who had romantic relationships with staffers in House Speaker Thom Tillis' office.

Last month, The News & Observer first reported that Tillis' Chief of Staff Charles Thomas was romantically linked to Jessica Hayes, a lobbyist for the North Carolina Home Builders Association. Tillis later revealed that a second staffer, Amy Hobbs, had a relationship with contract lobbyist Dean Plunkett. 

Both Thomas and Hobbs resigned in response to those relationships coming to light, and Tillis said the behavior in question was not appropriate. 

The documents, four separate letters from the commission, outline that  the commission will investigate whether Plunkett and Hayes violated lobbying gift-giving bans, failed to file required expense reports or otherwise failed to follow the gift ban law.

Letters from the commission also indicate there will be a formal investigation into the Home Builders Association. Paperwork also indicates the commission will contact Plunkett's clients, including the Home and Hospice Care of North Carolina and the Coastal Conservation Association, but does not say those groups are under investigation. 

However, the commission will not investigate Thomas or Hobbs because they are no longer legislative employees and are therefore no longer under the commission's purview. 

A call placed to Ethics Commission Executive Director Perry Newson was not immediately returned.

Commission business is typically done out of public view. The commission took up the investigation after complaints from Democrats. 

The letters to those under investigation say they have until June 22 to file a written response.


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  • rasengineers Jun 6, 2012

    Actually, investigating the Homebuilders Association is long overdue. For years, the NCHBA has dumped tons of money into both parties. At one point in the mid-1990's the Homebuilders Association bragged about being the 800 lb. gorilla in the legislature. Homebuilders have controlled the NC Building Code Council for the past twenty years, much to the detriment of the citizens of North Carolina. By all means, the NCHBA should be investigated, as should the legislators and governors they have bought.

  • Come On_Seriously Jun 6, 2012

    Sure is a good thing we got rid of some of those pesky overpaid teachers so that we could give those upstanding family-values-and-impeccable-integrity, and not to mention underpaid, legislative staffers (who haven't had a 25% raise in a whole year) one of those teacher's salaries to not work after getting caught doing 'what just had to be done.'

  • Come On_Seriously Jun 6, 2012

    "However, the commission will not investigate Thomas or Hobbs because they are no longer legislative employees and are therefore no longer under the commission's purview."

    Really? They were under the commission's purview when the inappropriate relationships took place. These are the people who should be investigated. We all know that the job of a lobbyist is to get their agenda into the legislative process(and often through whatever means they can). We 'trust' the elected officials and their staff to draw the line, which not having been drawn constitutes a potentially serious ethical problem. How can they not investigate the Speaker's office?

    Tillis gave his staffers a nice hypocritical taxpayer-funded severance to keep quiet and to get out before the ethics commission got in.

  • BigBangTheorist Jun 6, 2012

    They need to investigate the Speaker himself. He should be made to pay back the taxpayers of this state for compensating these two, and not firing them. And not only should he be removed as Speaker of the House, he should lose his position altogether.

  • RonnieR Jun 6, 2012

    I really don't think that they woulda documented spending on their lovers, not to CYA, but who really keeps track of what they spend on a significant other. A drink here, a trinket there, etc. Seems much about nothing.