Documents: Lobbyists under investigation for Speaker's office scandal

Documents show the N.C. State Ethics Commission will investigate two lobbyists who had romantic relationships with staffers for House Speaker Thom Tillis.

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Mark Binker
RALEIGH, N.C. — According to confidential documents obtained by WRAL News, the North Carolina State Ethics Commission will investigate lobbyists who had romantic relationships with staffers in House Speaker Thom Tillis' office.

Last month, The News & Observer first reported that Tillis' Chief of Staff Charles Thomas was romantically linked to Jessica Hayes, a lobbyist for the North Carolina Home Builders Association. Tillis later revealed that a second staffer, Amy Hobbs, had a relationship with contract lobbyist Dean Plunkett. 

Both Thomas and Hobbs resigned in response to those relationships coming to light, and Tillis said the behavior in question was not appropriate. 

The documents, four separate letters from the commission, outline that  the commission will investigate whether Plunkett and Hayes violated lobbying gift-giving bans, failed to file required expense reports or otherwise failed to follow the gift ban law.

Letters from the commission also indicate there will be a formal investigation into the Home Builders Association. Paperwork also indicates the commission will contact Plunkett's clients, including the Home and Hospice Care of North Carolina and the Coastal Conservation Association, but does not say those groups are under investigation. 

However, the commission will not investigate Thomas or Hobbs because they are no longer legislative employees and are therefore no longer under the commission's purview. 

A call placed to Ethics Commission Executive Director Perry Newson was not immediately returned.

Commission business is typically done out of public view. The commission took up the investigation after complaints from Democrats. 

The letters to those under investigation say they have until June 22 to file a written response.

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