State News

Perdue Wants Auditor to Look Into Records Requests Tied to Moore

Posted September 18, 2007 10:13 a.m. EDT
Updated September 18, 2007 6:13 p.m. EDT

— Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue wants state auditors to investigate whether her expected rival in the Democratic gubernatorial campaign has been using state computers to collect information to use against her.

Perdue's general counsel wrote to Auditor Les Merritt, saying public records requests to Perdue's office have originated from a state computer system used by Treasurer Richard Moore's office. The requests seek information about a task force created by a health care commission led by Perdue.

The records request was made using the e-mail address of Michigan resident Cliff Bennett, who is the brother-in-law of a top Moore adviser.

Moore said Tuesday afternoon that Julie White, an employee of his office, sent the requests using a private e-mail account from a state computer.

"To our knowledge, no laws were broken. However, Ms. White has violated departmental policies. Appropriate disciplinary action will be taken,” Moore said in a statement.

Still Jay Reiff, Moore's campaign manager, called the request for an audit politically motivated.

"The lieutenant governor's attack ... is the height of hypocrisy and phoniness. Everyone knows Beverly Perdue's chief of staff has been running her unofficial gubernatorial campaign for the last two-and-a-half years," Reiff said in a statement.

A Perdue spokesman said the office works to keep politics separate from official business, although Zach Ambrose, her former chief of staff, was recently named her campaign manager.

This is the second time in two years Moore's camp has been accused of blurring politics and state work. In the previous complaint, Moore admitted a former staffer was wrong to have campaign work on his state computer.

"There's a long tradition of fuzzy, mixed-up politics between who's getting ready to run for governor and who's on who's staff," Democratic consultant Brad Crone said. "There's going to be more attention on transparency in politics simply because voters are demanding it."

But Crone said he wonders when the contenders will fight over issues instead of e-mails.

"What all the candidates for governor should be doing is talking about how we're going to fix our roads, how are we going to improve our schools," he said.