Local Politics

Environmental officials subpoenaed in Easley probe

Posted September 16, 2009 3:06 p.m. EDT
Updated September 16, 2009 3:27 p.m. EDT

— Two state environmental regulators have been called to testify before a federal grand jury, including one who examined the permit for a development where then-Gov. Mike Easley bought some land four years ago.

Federal prosecutors in Raleigh asked Nathaniel Thornburg and Jim Bushardt to visit the grand jury, which was slated to meet Wednesday.

A state Division of Water Quality document shows Thornburg was the primary reviewer of a 2005 wastewater treatment license for Connonsgate, a Carteret County development where Easley later purchased a waterfront lot at a below-market price.

Thornburg and Bushardt are involved in express permitting, in which licensing decisions are performed more quickly compared to traditional permitting. The applicant must pay higher fees to receive the more intensive attention. There has been no evidence released that Cannonsgate received preferential treatment.

The grand jury has been examining Easley's dealings with friends and contributors while in office. In addition to the land deal, federal investigators are looking at Easley's travel while he was governor, vehicles that car dealers provided to the Easley family, former first lady Mary Easley's high-paying job at North Carolina State University, the state's sale of a Southport marina to a group that included political contributors and Division of Motor Vehicles moves that might have benefited a political contributor.