Geddings Case Prompts Efforts To Strengthen State Law
Posted May 19, 2006 6:11 a.m. EDT
RALEIGH, N.C. — A former state lottery commissioner indicted on federal charges is expected to turn himself into authorities next week.
Investigators say Kevin Geddings lied about money earned from a company bidding for contracts from the North Carolina Education Lottery. It's a federal case, partly because state law is so weak.
What got Kevin Geddings in trouble? Authorities said after he filled out his financial disclosure statement, he put it in the U.S. mail. That's where federal authorities got him. Had he simply hand delivered it, the State Board of Ethics would have little recourse except to recommend his resignation.
Complete Geddings Indictment
The federal indictment is the first break in a broader public corruption investigation, and it comes with lessons for North Carolina. One public official said Friday that state ethics legislation under consideration has Geddings' name all over it.
When Geddings turned in his financial disclosure statement to the state Board of Ethics, investigators said, he left out a major conflict of interest. According to the federal indictment, lottery vendor Scientific Games paid Geddings more than $228,000 over a five-year period. The company wanted to run North Carolina's games.
Authorities say Geddings also compounded his federal case by using e-mails to try and hide his ties to Scientific Games. Thus, he also faces wire fraud charges.
Now, Gov. Mike Easley and state lawmakers want to toughen state law by making it a felony to lie about financial conflicts.
"This is an ongoing investigation," said U.S. Attorney Frank Whitney.
Whitney won't tip his hand on the direction of the investigation, but supbpoenas issued to House Speaker Jim Black show agents are tracking everything from campaign money to video poker connections to lobbying questions.
The indictment cites Geddings touting himself as a potential lottery commissioner to a Scientific Games lobbyist, saying: "If you want a foot soldier to serve who will be loyal to the Speaker, keep me in mind."
Presumably, that lobbyist was Meredith Norris. While she shopped around Scientific Games to lawmakers, she had a dual role as Black's political director.
Black's attorney said the speaker never would have appointed Geddings had the potential conflict been known.
Why didn't state officials perform a better background check? Black said his first choice fell through, so he had just a short time to make a decision. A spokesperson said Black can't recall if Meredith Norris made the recommendation.