State News

Aide: Easley provided sharp words on fired worker

Posted February 4, 2010 2:45 p.m. EST
Updated February 4, 2010 5:06 p.m. EST

— The communications director for former Gov. Mike Easley said in a deposition that Easley provided the sharp words in 2008 explaining why a cabinet agency's public affairs director was fired.

Sherri Johnson disclosed Easley's involvement in a deposition last week for a public records lawsuit.

Several media outlets have accused Easley and his staff of deleting e-mails in violation of state laws. Debbie Crane, a former spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Human Services, prompted the allegations by statements she made after she was fired in early 2008.

The governor's press office then called Crane "dishonest, untruthful and insubordinate." Johnson testified that Easley "dictated it word for word and ordered" the statement be sent out.

DHHS said Crane was fired for advising the health secretary not to talk to a newspaper about its mental health investigation.

Johnson also disclosed in her testimony that Easley sometimes conducted state business through a private e-mail account that only a few staff members could access.

Gov. Beverly Perdue said Thursday that she also has a private e-mail account, but she said that she archived any messages dealing with state business.

In other testimony in the records lawsuit, former Easley press secretary Renee Hoffman said she and other staffers were instructed to delete their e-mails to and from the governor's office. Johnson denied that directive.