Local Politics

Subpoenas issued in Easley hearing

The State Board of Elections on Friday released the names of 28 people subpoenaed to testify in the campaign finance hearing of former Gov. Mike Easley.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The State Board of Elections on Friday released the names of 28 people subpoenaed to testify in the campaign finance hearing of former Gov. Mike Easley.

The board has scheduled a hearing for Monday to question Easley and others about his campaign fundraising and spending. The hearing could last a week, officials said.

The subpoena list includes Easley, former Democratic Party officials Jerry Meek and Scott Falmlen, former Easley aides Cari Boyce and Ruffin Poole and former Revenue Secretary Muriel Offerman. Highway Patrol Capt. Alan Melvin, who headed Easley's security detail, and former state Department of Transportation board members Lannie Wilson and Cameron McRae also were subpoenaed.

McRae, a Bojangles' franchisee, hog baron Wendell Murphy and developers Gary Allen and Nick Garrett are among the political contributors subpoenaed in the case.

It's unclear who on the list will actually be called as witnesses, and some people who are called might exercise their constitutional right not to testify.

WRAL News will provide live coverage of the entire hearing, along with expert analysis, on WRAL.com, WRAL Mobile, over-the-air channel 50.3 and Time Warner Cable channel 252.

Questions surround amended finance reports Easley's campaign filed in April after previously failing to disclose the use of an SUV provided by a Red Springs car dealer. The campaign is also under scrutiny over unreported flights on private planes, which could have violated donation limits.

State law prohibits political contributions from corporations and limits individual donations to $4,000 per candidate in any election cycle.

"Every time that we have a peek inside this system, we see that it's still rotten," said Joe Sinsheimer, a Democratic political consultant whose campaign finance complaints sparked probes that led to the downfall of former House Speaker Jim Black and former Rep. Thomas Wright.

"One of the things that we may get into next week is, did any of the folks that were giving large sums of money (to the Democratic Party) designate those funds for Gov. Easley," Sinsheimer said.

Meanwhile, two former lawmakers sent a letter to the elections board Friday, demanding that Chairman Larry Leake recuse himself from the hearing. Former state Sens. Fern Shubert and Hugh Webster contend that one of the private flights Easley took was on a corporate jet to a fundraiser Leake hosted at his Mars Hill home.

"We believe it is important that the hearings and investigation go forward, but we strongly believe Mr. Leake's continued involvement risks tainting the process," Shubert and Webster wrote.

Easley is the first former governor to go before the elections board. The board could take no action or issue a fine or reprimand. The board's findings could also be turned over to the Wake County District Attorney's Office for possible criminal prosecution.