Local Politics

Ethics Panel to Review Lawmaker's Reimbursements

Posted October 1, 2007 7:21 p.m. EDT

— House Speaker Joe Hackney on Monday called for a review of travel reimbursements paid to an embattled state lawmaker.

A state audit released Monday alleged that Rep. Thomas Wright, D-New Hanover, either double billed or overstated $1,400 in travel reimbursement he collected for committee work on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Hackney referred the allegation to the Joint Legislative Committee on Ethics for investigation.

The State Board of Elections in May determined that Wright broke campaign finance laws in connection with more than $119,000 in unreported campaign donations from political action committees. The Wake County District Attorney's Office has been investigating those findings to determine whether criminal charges are warranted.

The State Bureau of Investigation also has been investigating the finances of a nonprofit headed by Wright. The probe is linked to the purchase of a building for a museum dedicated to the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot.

Torlen Wade, the director of the state Office of Rural Health Development, wrote a letter in March 2002 to help Wright's New Hanover Community Health Center obtain a loan to buy the building. The letter suggested $150,000 in state financing would back the museum project when both Wade and Wright knew that wasn't the case, officials said.

Wade had regular contact with Wright, who served as chairman of a House health committee, and he told state elections board investigators that he later regretted writing the letter.