Local Politics

Former governor issues statement about investigation

Posted May 16, 2009 3:02 p.m. EDT
Updated May 16, 2009 10:09 p.m. EDT

Under fire and under federal investigation, former North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley issued a brief statement Saturday afternoon.

"I am comfortable with the federal authorities collecting and reviewing all records relating to my 30 years of public service to the people of North Carolina. I am confident of the outcome and we look forward to moving on with our private lives," Easley said.

The statement referred questions to John Wallace, a lawyer who advised Easley during political  campaigns.

This is the first public reaction from the former governor since the publication of a series of investigative articles in Raleigh's News & Observer began the probe into favors Easley may have accepted from friends and campaign donors.

On Friday, the FBI subpoenaed state Highway Patrol records of Easley's travel while he was in office. Highway Patrol Capt. Alan Melvin, who headed Easley's security detail, also has been subpoenaed to speak with federal investigators.

In recent months, the News & Observer published reports of various trips Easley made on private planes of supporters. Many of those flights went unreported on his campaign finance reports and likely violated contribution limits.

Agents have also asked questions about private vehicles supplied to Easley and his family, as well as a coastal property purchase.

Gary Bartlett, executive director of the state Board of Elections, said he has met with Wallace and he expects Easley campaign officials will file more amended campaign finance reports.

“These kinds of stories of political corruption drag all of us back into the bad side of politics,” said Joe Sinsheimer, a Democratic political consultant who played a key role in the investigations that brought down House Speaker Jim Black and Representative Thomas Wright.

Republican political consultant Ballard Everett called Easley’s statement "lackluster."

“It just seems to me that a man of his stature should have said, ‘This was not right …we’re going to look into it. We’re going to take care of the situation,’” Everett said.

Everett said the situation is really a "black eye on our state."

"It's maybe a developing black eye. I still haven't seen the kind of evidence that somebody is going to take to court," Democratic political commentator Barlow Herget said.

Herget and democratic consultant Gary Pearce stress the importance of waiting until the investigation is finished.

“People need to take a deep breath and calm down because it’s being looked into by the appropriate agencies and soon enough everybody will know the facts of the case,” Pearce said.

“I just wish that the governor had been more forthcoming when the reports first started coming out,” Herget said.