Local Politics

Panel finds no wrongdoing in missing Easley travel records

Posted January 7, 2010 3:58 p.m. EST
Updated January 7, 2010 5:09 p.m. EST

— A panel appointed by Gov. Beverly Perdue has found no wrongdoing in the disappearance of all 2005 travel records of former Gov. Mike Easley.

The panel of three attorneys said they couldn't locate the records, which were subpoenaed in May as part of a federal grand jury investigation into Easley's dealings with friends and contributors while in office.

After an internal investigation by the Highway Patrol and two forensic examinations of a Highway Patrol computer failed to produce the records, Perdue asked former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Willis Whichard, former state Attorney General Robert Morgan and former Administrative Office of the Courts director Ralph Walker to look into the matter.

In a report sent to Perdue Wednesday, the three attorneys said they interviewed Easley, Highway Patrol Capt. Alan Melvin, who headed Easley's security detail from 2003 to 2007, and Diane Bumgardner, Melvin's former secretary, to determine what happened to the records.

Bumgardner told the panel that Melvin asked her to put all of Easley's travel records for 2003, 2004 and 2005 on a disk to free up computer space, and she said she turned the disk over to him.

Melvin told the panel that he doesn't recall asking her to do that but said any disk he received would have been left in the security detail's office at the Executive Mansion. He said a records retention policy the security detail followed called for destroying records after two years, so the information on the disk might have been discarded a while ago.

Melvin also said a computer he delivered to Easley's private home in Raleigh after the governor left office last year was one purchased by a campaign aide and wasn't tied to anything in the security detail.

Easley told the panel that the computer Melvin delivered was an old campaign computer that he had left in the Executive Mansion. He said he didn't know anything about the records the Highway Patrol kept on his travels and said that, since 2005 wasn't an election year, he doubted he did much travel on private planes then.

The panel concluded that the disk containing the 2005 travel records was either misplaced or destroyed long before Easley's travels came under state and federal investigation.

"There is little, if any, doubt that these records were deleted from the (Highway Patrol) computer and placed on a disk. What happened to that disk appears indeterminable," the panel's report states. "We have found no evidence, direct or circumstantial, that would establish or even point toward an intentional hiding or destruction of the records."

The State Board of Elections in October ordered Easley's campaign to pay $100,000 for flights donors provided to Easley aboard their private planes that were never disclosed on campaign finance reports. Prosecutors are reviewing the case to determine if any criminal charges are warranted.

The federal grand jury also is looking at Easley's travel, several land deals involving contributors and how his wife landed a high-paying job at North Carolina State University.