Group seeks ethics investigation of McCrory

Posted January 12, 2015 12:47 p.m. EST
Updated January 13, 2015 4:59 a.m. EST

— Progress NC Action on Monday filed an ethics complaint against Gov. Pat McCrory, seeking a state investigation into what the Democratic-leaning group calls a pattern of omissions on McCrory's ethics forms.

State officials have to file annual statements disclosing their business dealings, investments and other income, especially as it relates to their job.

Last year, McCrory did not properly report ownership of stock in Duke Energy, where he worked for 29 years. The governor said he misunderstood a question that wasn't worded clearly.

McCrory also did not disclose his position as a board member of the parent company for online mortgage firm LendingTree.com. McCrory resigned from the board during his first month in office, and the Tree.com board voted to let him cash out his shares early.

"The governor was paid $185,000 by Tree.com after he was sworn in as governor in 2013," Gerrick Brenner, executive director of Progress NC Action, said during a news conference. "In his first year as governor, McCrory made more money as a board member of Tree.com than he did as governor of this state, and he did not report it on his ethics forms."

The group is also accusing McCrory of misrepresenting his role as a partner in his brother's firm, McCrory & Co., which does business with the state as well as with major political donors.

"I was paid staff for my brother," he said when asked about the ethics complaint during a news conference to announce a deal to sell the Dorothea Dix property to Raleigh for $52 million.

He said he hasn't worked for McCrory & Co. since he became governor and declined to answer further questions about the issue.

He previously said that any errors he made were honest mistakes.

"There are so many troubling omissions that a reasonable person could not simply chalk this up to one innocent simple mistake," Brenner said.

Late Monday afternoon, the Governor's Office issued a statement from McCrory attorney Bob Stephens, who called the ethics complaint "unsubstantiated political theater."

"The governor is being attacked for work and compensation he earned prior to entering office. There are no facts to support the accusations made in this complaint," Stephens said.

Regarding the governor's position at McCrory & Co., Stephens said McCrory never had legal standing as a partner in the firm, and calling him a partner was merely a "working title."

Within hours, McCrory sent out an email to supporters asking that they "volunteer for Governor McCrory and go against this liberal barrage."  

The state Republican party called the filing "unfounded and baseless" and accused Progress NC Action of working for Attorney General Roy Cooper, who is expected to challenge McCrory in 2016.