Easley e-mails missing

June 24, 2009 6:14:52 PM PDT
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper's office confirmed Wednesday that the State Bureau of Investigation is investigating former Governor Mike Easley.In a letter sent to Senate Republican Leader Phil Berger, Cooper's Chief of staff says he instructed the SBI to investigate Easley "earlier this year."

Click here to read the letter (.pdf)

Kristi Hyman said state agents were working side by side with the FBI.

Berger said it was reassuring to know that state agents were on the case, but he said that is not enough.

"It is past time for Attorney General Roy Cooper to appoint a special prosecutor dedicated to investigating possible violations of state law," wrote Berger in a news release.

Cooper's office said requesting a special prosecutor comes under the authority of the local prosecutor working on the case.

In a letter back, Berger asked Cooper to urge the Wake County prosecutor to do just that.

NC State involved

Also Wednesday, NC State attorneys said they found that e-mails sent during former First Lady Mary Easley's hiring at the university were deleted from former Chancellor James Oblinger's account.

The university's lawyers said in a letter to the U.S. Attorney's Office that they have been unable to determine how and why the e-mails sent from and received by Oblinger's e-mail account were deleted. They said there are periods of time in the first half of 2005 for which officials have been unable to recover e-mails.

Oblinger and Provost Larry Nielsen both resigned over questions about Mary Easley's hiring.

She was paid $170,000 a year to run a speaker series and public safety center at the school.

Cuts at the school meant the center was never funded, and the Board of Trustees voted to end her contract after Oblinger's resignation saying her serves were no longer needed.

Oblinger and Nielsen have both maintained that they did nothing wrong when Easley was given her job.

Still, e-mail records show the former Governor was involved in getting her the position. A second batch of those emails were released by the school Wednesday.

Click here to read them

Oblinger attorney Press Millen says the chancellor may have deleted e-mails to clean up his account but never engaged in any wholesale deletion of e-mails targeting those related to Easley.

Background

Former Governor Easley and his family are the subjects of wide ranging investigations by both federal officials and the North Carolina Board of Elections.

Officials are looking at Mary Easley's hiring to a well paid position at NC State, trips the Governor may have made on private planes, his relationships with car dealers, and a land deal.

Trips investigated

The investigation of trips Governor Easley took on private planes has also led to the resignation of a top transportation official.

North Carolina Department of Transportation board member Cameron McRae stepped down after word of the investigation became public.

According to reports in the Raleigh News and Observer, McRae gave Easley airplane flights that neither man disclosed in campaign records - a possible violation of state law.

North Carolina law requires the disclosure of gifts over $200. The law also prevents corporations from donating to campaigns and limits individuals to giving $4,000 to a candidate in an election cycle. The market value of many of the flights appears to be over $4,000 or enough to top the legal limit when combined with other contributions. It can cost up to $1,300 an hour to charter the kind of private plane the governor needs to travel.

Easley appointed McRae to a third four-year term on the transportation board in early January, just days before he left office.

Free cars investigated

The State Board of Elections and a grand jury are also looking at an arrangement where Easley's wife and son drove cars provided by car dealerships for free. In a past interview with Eyewitness News, Easley said he owned the cars, but DMV records show Easley bought a used GMC Yukon which his son had been driving two days after our interview.

Mary Easley also drove a car that was characterized as "a loaner" for months.

Land deal investigated

Investigators are also scrutinizing a Carteret County real estate development in which the former Governor bought a lot in 2005.

Some reports say the purchase of a lot in the Cannonsgate development amounted to a "sweetheart deal."

Newspaper reports say Easley got a choice waterfront lot a much lower price than similar lots were going for at the time. Easley appointed the developer and three others involved in the project to major state boards.

Easley reaction

Former Governor Easley has refused interview requests, but said in a statement released to the media earlier this year that he was "comfortable" with the scrutiny of his affairs.

"I am comfortable with the federal authorities collecting and reviewing all records relating to my 30 years of public service to the people of North Carolina," Easley said. "I am confident of the outcome, and we look forward to moving on with our private lives," he wrote.


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