Local Politics

Another Black Associate Headed to Trial

Posted February 2, 2007 10:54 p.m. EST
Updated February 6, 2007 1:00 p.m. EST

— Jury selection begins Monday in the perjury trial of another associate of state lawmaker Jim Black, which puts the former House Speaker back in the public spotlight.

Scott Edwards, of Murfreesboro, an optometrist like Black, was indicted in September on four counts of felony perjury. A Wake County grand jury accused Edwards of failing to file accurate campaign finance reports for the political action committee of the N.C. State Optometric Society.

Black has not been charged with any wrongdoing, but several of his allies have found their way to court.

A federal jury convicted former lottery commissioner Kevin Geddings of lying on state ethics forms about his financial ties to a lottery company. Former lawmaker Michael Decker implicated Black when he admitted taking a payoff to switch parties. Black's former political director Meredith Norris plead no contest to lobbying violations.

When the General Assembly convened last month, Black did not try for a fourth term as speaker of the House of Representatives. Rep. Joe Hackney, D-Orange, was elected instead.

In February 2006, Edwards refused to testify at State Board of Elections hearings into whether Black, D-Mecklenburg, violated any campaign finance regulations. Others told the board how Edwards allegedly collected checks on which the payee lines were left blank. The checks came from members of the society's political action committee.

Witnesses told the Board of Elections that many of the checks were passed on to Black. They testified that Black directed where the money should go and filled in the payee on some of the checks.

Black has not said he would finish the two-year term he won in a close election last November, and rumors have flown around the Legislative Building about a resignation, but there has been nothing to them thus far.

Black professes to be unconcerned as yet another criminal proceeding gets under way.

“I don't really fret much over anything. Whatever comes up through all those years, I’ve dealt with it,” the former speaker said Friday.