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Judge Trying To Keep $18,000 Meant For Senator With Same Name

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HARNETT COUNTY, N.C. — A retired judge who shares the same name and a similar address with a former U.S. senator doesn't want to share any of the $18,000 he got that was intended for his friend.

Harnett County officials mailed an $18,042 check to retired Chief District Judge Robert B. Morgan in April 2003. Now, they say they want the money back because it was supposed to go to former U.S. Sen. Robert B. Morgan.

The money was for a sewer line easement through Sen. Morgan's property. Judge Morgan said he believed the money was for an easement for a water line installed near his property and damage to his fence.

He said he doesn't believe he should have to return the money.

``It's been two years,'' Judge Morgan said. ``I spent it and paid taxes on it. ``They made the mistake, I didn't. If I make a mistake, I don't expect anyone else to pay for it.''

The mistake was discovered last month when a county utilities worker heard Judge Morgan give a deposition in an unrelated easement dispute and realized that the check had been sent to the wrong Robert B. Morgan, Public Utilities Director Robert Tart said.

The county offered to amend Morgan's tax return for 2003 and pay for any tax filing or accountant fees. The county also offered to provide the IRS with a statement explaining that the payment was made in error, county records said.

Former Sen. Morgan, a Lillington lawyer, said he did not realize that he had not received the money because someone else handles his finances.

``I'm the luckiest man in the world,'' he said. ``I never thought of money.''

In the past, Sen. Morgan said, he and the judge sometimes received each other's mail and had an ongoing joke that Judge Morgan would deposit a check meant for Sen. Morgan.

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