Local Politics

Ex-DOT leader subpoenaed in Easley case

Posted May 14, 2010 11:56 a.m. EDT
Updated May 14, 2010 3:55 p.m. EDT

— Former state Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippett has been subpoenaed to testify to a federal grand jury investigating former Gov. Mike Easley's dealings with friends and contributors while in office, sources told WRAL News.

When asked Friday morning to confirm the information, Tippett replied, "I don't know how to answer that question." He then said he needed to consult his attorney.

Easley appointed Tippett to head the state Department of Transportation, and he served throughout Easley's two terms as governor.

Tippett also is listed in a separate . That subpoena asks for  information related to any payments, gifts or loans between any of two dozen people listed, including Easley, former first lady Mary Easley, several former aides, Tippett, former Sen. Tony Rand and former Division of Motor Vehicles Commissioner George Tatum.

The DOT subpoena also asks for information related to the Easleys' home in Southport, any agreements between the agency and former Southport Mayor Norman Holden, and information regarding Law Enforcement Associates, a Raleigh firm that sells surveillance equipment.

Rand is chairman of Law Enforcement Associates, and a former executive has accused him and other politicians of insider trading.

It's unclear what information Tippett might know that would help in the investigation, but Lanny Wilson, a Wilmington developer and former DOT board member, has been a key witness for investigators.

The case has revolved around allegations of contributions and gifts in exchange for political favors.

Ruffin Poole, once a top aide to Easley, pleaded guilty last month to a federal tax evasion charge and agreed to cooperate with investigators. Wilson allowed Poole to invest in the Cannonsgate development in Carteret County in 2005, and in an attempt to curry favor for permits and an appointment to a state board, Wilson quickly turned a $30,000 profit for Poole, prosecutors said.

Easley later purchased a waterfront lot in Cannonsgate at a below-market rate.

The grand jury, which is scheduled to meet again next week, also has looked into Easley's travel aboard donors' private planes, Mary Easley's high-paying job at North Carolina State University and other real estate deals.

Tippett's subpoena doesn't mean that did anything wrong, nor does it guarantee that he will have to testify. In some cases, it's a formality, and witnesses are able to provide information to agents in person.