Local Politics

DOT board member linked to Easley case resigns

Posted January 21, 2010 11:42 a.m. EST
Updated January 21, 2010 3:57 p.m. EST

— Lanny Wilson, a Wilmington businessman linked to allegations of campaign finance violations by former Gov. Mike Easley's campaign, resigned Thursday from the state Board of Transportation.

"After much consideration and thought, I am stepping down to avoid any further unnecessary distractions that would only serve to impede the progress of your reform efforts with the board and Department of Transportation," Wilson wrote in a letter to Gov. Beverly Perdue.

Wilson was initially appointed to the DOT board by Easley in 2001.

During an October hearing by the State Board of Elections hearing into allegations of campaign finance violations, Wilson testified that he gave money to the North Carolina Democratic Party in 2004 after he had reached the $4,000 limit for personal contributions to the Easley campaign. He said he intended the money to the party to be funneled back to the Easley campaign, noting campaign staffers told him that was the best way to get money to them.

Wilson also testified that he gave money to the campaign in the name of his wife, who was then his fiancee. Making political contributions under someone else's name is illegal under state law.

The elections board didn't cite Wilson for any infractions, but it did order Easley's campaign to pay $100,000 for unreported flights provided to the governor aboard donors' private planes. Prosecutors are reviewing the board's findings to determine whether any criminal charges are warranted.

Wilson also is linked to Cannonsgate, a Carteret County development where Easley purchased a waterfront lot at a below-market price. A federal grand jury is looking at that land deal as part of an investigation into Easley's dealings with friends and contributors while in office.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources has suspended the regulator who approved the .permits for Cannonsgate.

DENR spokeswoman Diana Kees said Jason Dail was placed on a one-week suspension without pay last Saturday. He will return to work next Monday, she said.

The suspension resulted from an investigation into Dail's request for a lot in the development for his stepfather shortly after approving the permits in 2005, Kees said. Although no one in Dail's family ever bought a lot in Cannonsgate, she said the timing of the request created an appearance of impropriety.