Local Politics

Outside experts to investigate missing travel records

Posted August 26, 2009 4:02 p.m. EDT
Updated August 26, 2009 10:47 p.m. EDT

— Three attorneys will investigate the missing 2005 travel records of former Gov. Mike Easley, the state Highway Patrol said Wednesday.

A federal grand jury is looking into Easley's dealings with friends and contributors while in office, including flights on private planes that might have violated campaign finance laws.

The Highway Patrol in May turned over Easley's travel records, but authorities said records for 2005 were missing. Patrol officials said this week that they also have turned over a computer that once contained details of Easley's travel to federal investigators, hoping that FBI forensics experts can recover the lost data.

A patrol , released over the weekend, didn't determine what happened to the missing records.

Secretary Reuben Young of the state Department of Crime Control and Public Safety asked three attorneys to look into the missing records at the request of Gov. Beverly Perdue, Highway Patrol spokesman Capt. Everett Clendenin said.

The attorneys conducting the investigation are:

  • Willis Whichard, a former state Supreme Court justice and dean of the law school at Campbell University
  • Robert Morgan, a former director of the State Bureau of Investigation and former state Attorney General
  • Ralph Walker, former superior and Court of Appeals judge and former director of the Administrative Office of the Courts

"We're going to make anyone in our department answer questions that are put to them by these three distinguished public servants. We'll make them available," Young said.

Perdue said she finds the missing records situation "unacceptable" and said an independent investigation is needed to resolve the case.

"It’s the right thing for this administration to do. It’s the right thing for the people of the state, and it will help us move to some kind of finality on this whole discussion," she said. "I said (Tuesday) that I am as tired of it as anyone in the state of North Carolina. I don’t understand it. It's hard to swallow, and I want to understand and put a period at the end of the discussion."

Perdue declined to release the full report of the patrol's internal investigation of the missing records, citing the confidentiality of personnel records.

Former federal prosecutor Dan Boyce, who is not involved in the travel records investigation, said Wednesday that he questions the timing and purpose of Perdue’s decision to name an independent panel.

“I don't know how three distinguished attorneys, even as good as they are, are going to be able to uncover things any better than the ongoing investigation,” Boyce said. “Sometimes you have too many cooks in the kitchen when you have an investigation of this type.”

Patrol Capt. Alan Melvin, who headed Easley's security detail from 2003 to 2007, was placed on administrative duty pending the outcome of an internal investigation. He returned to duty last month and was initially placed in charge of a unit overseeing computer security, buy Young reassigned him Monday because of lingering questions over the missing records.