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Easley Wants Answers In Taxpayer-Supported Cruise

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The state Ports Authority hosted a private party and the N.C. Department of Transportation loaned them a ferry boat.

Taxpayers helped foot the bill for the cruise.

Now, Governor Mike Easley wants to know how it was allowed to happen.

When the tall ships sailed at the coast recently, tens of thousands of spectators stood in the heat and long lines to catch a glimpse.

Hoping to better promote the event, the Ports Authority invited state lawmakers, local officials, family, and friends.

A state ferry was reserved for the private party, complete with seafood, booze, and a band.

Representatives Pricey Harrison, Marian McLawhorn and Secretary of State Elaine Marshall were among those on board.

"I'm asking for an accounting on it," said Governor Mike Easley. "I don't think anybody was trying to do something pernicious, but they just were not sensitive to the need to save state dollars."

Speaking at a bill signing Thursday, Easley expressed disappointment in the Ports Authority party. Showing off the tall ship events to officials was one thing -- the circumstances were another.

"You're taking a state ferry out of operation," Easley said. "The taxpayers are paying for it. They should have been using it. Instead they were backed up in traffic and it looks to be a little more lavish while the average citizen who's paying for all this is sitting on the bank somewhere."

The Ports Authority has apologized for the event and some lawmakers have said they want to pay for their part.

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