Some question Harrell resignation

RALEIGH The Wake County Representative stepped down Sunday amid questions about thousands of dollars in campaign expenses.

Click here to read more about his resignation

Many of the expenses were at some of Raleigh's trendiest restaurants, including 18 Seaboard, Solas, and Sushi Blues.

The Raleigh Democrat was in his second term in the state House.

Now, the North Carolina Board of Elections has questions about more than 200 expenses totaling more than $13,000. There were restaurant bills for political meetings on weekends, even charges for donor meetings at trendy restaurants in Washington DC.

The state Board of Elections said they want to know if the charges were really to help run a legislative office and run for re-election or were they only covering the politician's personal restaurant tab?

"It is very unusual to have a legislative race with that many things that need additional information," said Gary Bartlett with the state Board of Elections.

A House ethics panel was to meet Monday to discuss concerns, but Sunday Harrell cleaned out his desk and resigned.

Some think the two events are related.

"I think probably so," Rep. Skip Stam said. "A Sunday afternoon resignation, now he can deal just with the Board of Election."

After his re-election in 2008, Harrell's campaign racked up a huge restaurant tab, $60 charged for a Saturday committee meeting at 18 Seaboard, then at the trendy Glenwood South area of Raleigh.

There was $52 charged for "donor cultivation" at Solas the following Sunday, $90 at Sushi Blues for a "volunteer meeting," and then $780 at 18 Seaboard again.

"It is true a lot of campaign funds are wasted by a lot of candidates," Stam said. "But not too many candidates waste their money on fine restaurant dining."

Harrell even charged his campaign $97 for a planning meeting on a Saturday, the day after Christmas.

If Harrell did spend campaign money, which was not for running his office or running for office, each expense would be a misdemeanor.

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