Local Politics

DENR officials subpoenaed in Easley probe

Posted November 13, 2009 3:31 p.m. EST

— Federal investigators have subpoenaed six environmental regulators to ask if they gave or received gifts from developers with ties to former Gov. Mike Easley.

A federal grand jury has for months been looking into Easley's dealings with friends and contributors while in office. The grand jury meets again next Wednesday through Friday.

The subpoenas for six people in the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources ask for any communications, gifts or payments between the regulators, Easley, some former gubernatorial aides and developers who contributed to Easley's campaign.

Those subpoenaed are DENR Assistant Secretary Robin Smith, who worked with Easley in the late 1990s when he was attorney general; Jim Mead and Tom Fransen of the Division of Water Resources; Alan Klimek of the Division of Water Quality; Henry Ou of the Technical Services Branch; and Jason Dail of DENR's express permitting office in Wilmington.

The subpoenas specifically ask about dealings involving Cannonsgate, a Carteret County project where Easley purchased a waterfront lot at a below-market rate. They also ask about three other coastal developments by brothers Gary and Randy Allen: Summerhouse in Onslow County, Cutter's Bay in Pamlico County and Oyster Harbour in Brunswick County.

Oyster Harbour was a focus of a State Board of Elections hearing last month into alleged campaign finance violations by Easley and his campaign committee. Gary Allen told elections officials there was no link between his effort to obtain a permit for a dock at the development and a $50,000 donation he made to the state Democratic Party around the time he had a private meeting with the former governor.

Some of the regulators also have been subpoenaed for information regarding the Old Chatham Golf Club. The News & Observer newspaper has reported that Easley was given a discounted membership at the club and that his office allowed the club to pump water from Jordan Lake during a drought in 2002.

In addition to the Cannonsgate land deal, the grand jury has looked into Easley's travel on private planes, a high-paying job his wife landed at North Carolina State University, the sale of a Southport marina to a group that included political contributors and decisions in the state Division of Motor Vehicles that might have benefited a contributor.

The elections board ordered Easley's campaign to pay $100,000 for unreported plane trips and turned over the findings of its case against Easley to prosecutors to determine if criminal charges are warranted.