Local Politics

N&O: Easley's golf club received water during drought

Posted October 18, 2009 7:14 p.m. EDT
Updated October 20, 2009 9:34 a.m. EDT

— While North Carolina was amidst a severe drought, a private Chatham County golf club, of which then-Gov. Mike Easley was a member, was receiving millions of gallons of water for its greens, according to the News and Observer.

In 2002, North Carolina was in the midst of a four-year drought, and Easley was urging citizens and businesses to conserve water.

The N&O reported Sunday that during that drought, Old Chatham Golf Club, 1480 O’Kelly Chapel Road, removed nearly 6 million gallons from a nearby creek to irrigate its grass. The creek feeds into Jordan Lake, which provides water for Cary and Apex.

“What people need to realize is that the club stood to lose probably over a million dollars if that grass was allowed to die,” said Joe Sinsheimer, a Democratic political consultant.

Sinsheimer, who has worked on political corruption cases in the past, said protecting the club members' stake in the grass during a drought doesn't look good in the eyes of the public.

"To think that the governor was taking care of his golf club buddies at the same time that he is telling the rest of the state to sacrifice, just makes it even more hypocritical,” Sinsheimer said.

The N&O report states that the Governor's Office was involved in the decision to allow the club to pump the water. The club also granted Easley a free membership, worth an estimated $50,000, which he failed to disclose, according to the N&O report.

Easley's campaign finances, including numerous flights aboard private planes, are the subject of a federal criminal investigation and a hearing later this month before the State Board of Elections.

That hearing is set for Oct. 26 and could last a week. Easley will be the first governor called before an elections board hearing in North Carolina. (WRAL will provide live coverage of the entire process, along with expert analysis, on WRAL.com, on WRAL Mobile, over-the-air at 50.3 and on Time Warner Cable Ch. 252.)

The board could take no action or could issue a reprimand or fine in the case. The findings also could be turned over to the Wake County District Attorney's Office.

As far as the federal investigation, the grand jury has also subpoenaed other records relating to Easley's travel and vehicles provided to the governor and his family while he was in office.

It is also looking at two land deals, his wife's high-paying job at North Carolina State University and decisions by the state Division of Motor Vehicles that might have benefited a political contributor.