New investigation into Easley records

August 25, 2009 7:56:55 PM PDT
The North Carolina Secretary of Crime Control and Public Safety wants an independent investigation into how the former governor Mike Easley's travel records were lost.And Governor Beverly Perdue called Tuesday for more transparency.

The NC Highway Patrol says it cannot find the Easley's travel records for 2005. The documents are at the center of an investigation into whether the governor got free flights on private planes - flights investigators say he should have reported.

"I'm deeply disappointed that any kind of public information is missing," said Perdue.

What happened to the records is unclear. A secretary says Highway Patrol Captain Alan Melvin told her to download the records from her computer to a separate disk and then delete them from her computer to free up space.

She says she had never expressed any problems with space on the computer. That story - first reported by the Raleigh News and Observer - was apparently news to Secretary of Crime Control and Public Safety Reuben Young, because a previous investigation showed nothing was deleted from her computer.

"He feels like based on what has been stated, we need to get some other answers," Patrol spokesman Capt. Everett Clendenin told Eyewitness News Tuesday.

Young has placed Melvin on administrative duty while the investigation continues. A computer has been handed over to federal authorities.

The independent investigation ordered by Young is something Republican leaders have called for all along.

They point out Secretary Young used to be Easley's legal counsel and he was appointed to his post as secretary by current governor Beverly Perdue, a Democrat.

"It is hard to tell if incompetence or conflicts of interest from investigating a fellow Democrat are to blame for their failure to actively pursue an independent investigation," offered Senate Republican Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham).

But the Highway Patrol says it's not hiding anything.

"I can tell you Secretary Young has disclosed all information to the federal authorities. He's actually even ordered stuff disclosed that the feds haven't even asked for," said Clendenin.

Young had ordered Melvin back to his job in the computer division, but the secretary didn't think it looked right to keep him there in light of the latest computer controversy.

He's now on administrative duty the research department of the Highway Patrol.

As for the current governor, she's still trying to get to the bottom of what went wrong.

"I will be very direct when I can find out what happened and who did this and how it happened unless it was just a mistake, and it may have been a mistake, but it's a hard mistake for me to swallow. And we're going to make sure that it doesn't happen again. I have fixed my team. Folks know they can't delete anything from anywhere in this administration," said Perdue.

Republicans say they want more than the independent investigation into what they're calling "Flightgate."

They also want oversight committee hearings into the lost travel records and they want the Attorney General and the Wake County District Attorney - both Democrats - to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the scandal.

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