Local Politics

Appeals court says Easley aide should testify

Posted October 30, 2009 2:58 p.m. EDT

— The state Court of Appeals ruled Friday afternoon that an aide to former Gov. Mike Easley should be required to testify before the State Board of Elections.

Ruffin Poole, who served as Easley's lawyer during the governor's two terms in office, convinced Superior Court Judge Henry Barnette this week to quash the subpoena the elections board issued for him to testify in its hearing on Easley's campaign finances.

Poole argued that his testimony could violate the legally protected conversations he had with Easley as his attorney. Easley told the board on Wednesday that he had no problem with his former aide testifying in the hearing.

The appeals court stayed Barnette's order, ruling that Poole was a government lawyer and not Easley's personal attorney.

Earlier in the day, the elections board turned the findings of its five-day hearing into Easley's campaign finances over to Wake County prosecutors, saying evidence from the hearing "suggests" criminal violations by Easley and possibly others.

The board also ordered Easley's campaign to forfeit $60,000 and fined the campaign another $40,000 for violations of campaign finance law related to unreported flights that major donors provided to Easley aboard their private planes.

Larry Leake, the chairman of the elections board, held the hearing open after the board handed down its decisions, saying the board could reconvene in the future to hear from Poole once questions about the subpoena had been resolved.

"I believe Mr. Poole should comply with our subpoena," Leake said after the hearing.