Local Politics

Harrell opens bank accounts in campaign probe

Posted September 21, 2009 6:12 p.m. EDT
Updated September 21, 2009 6:52 p.m. EDT

— A day after resigning from the state House of Representatives, former Rep. Ty Harrell agreed to allow investigators with the State Board of Elections to review his personal bank accounts to determine whether any campaign finance laws have been violated.

Harrell, a Wake County Democrat, stepped down Sunday, saying personal difficulties and questions about his campaign spending would hinder his ability to represent voters in District 41.

His most recent campaign finance report reported 165 expenditures for the first six months of this year – an unusually large number for a non-election year.

Some of the expenses include the notations "candidate obligation," "volunteer recruitment" or "donor cultivation" to explain the purpose of the expense. The Board of Elections wants Harrell to provide documentation to clarify how his campaign money was spent and to demonstrate that it was for official purposes.

Under state law, campaign money can be used only for campaign-related expenses. Money can't be spent for personal use.

Elections investigators audited his campaign finance report asked for access to his bank records to reconcile the spending, and he agreed, said Gary Bartlett, executive director of the Board of Elections.

An sent Sept. 10 to Harrell's campaign finance chairman questions hundreds of expenses dating back to January 2007, including $235 spent last November at Lamb's Ear, a high-end children's clothing store in North Hills, and $191 he spent at Sharon's Luggage. He said in his report that both expenses were for a "committee meeting."

Harrell also paid himself $500 in April for a "candidate obligation," according to the audit letter.

A legislative ethics panel also was to have met Monday to discuss irregularities in Harrell's campaign finance reports, but that meeting was canceled following Harrell's resignation. The committee can only investigate sitting lawmakers.

Harrell told WRAL News earlier this month that all of the expenses are legitimate. He said he's confident his actions will be cleared by the investigation.

The Wake County Democratic Party will meet in the coming weeks to select someone to fill the rest of Harrell's term of office.