Group files ethics complaint over Governor McCrory's travel

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- A left-leaning advocacy group has filed an ethics complaint against Gov. Pat McCrory over his failure to disclose trips paid for through the Republican Governors Association on his required financial disclosure forms.

Progress North Carolina Action filed a complaint with the State Ethics Commission on Monday over McCrory's attendance at several RGA events paid for by undisclosed political donors. State ethics forms require officials to disclose any "scholarship" of more than $200 to attend a conference or event.

Governor McCrory's legal counsel Bob Stephens said new ethics disclosure forms have been filed that show seven previously unreported trips valued at $13,3015 in 2013. He said the reason for the filing was a misunderstanding between the Governor's staff and the Ethics Commission about what should have been reported.

"It is entirely appropriate for the RGA, NGA and SGA to pay travel expenditures for the Governor and staff to attend these meetings," said Stephens. "This is an accepted practice for governors around the country and does not require the use of any taxpayer money to attend these important functions. We have consistently interpreted the word "scholarship" to not include travel expenses. However, after inquiring of the Ethics Commission staff, we've been told these expenditures should be reported and we have submitted the supplemental information for the 2014 SEI form."

The supplemental form filed Monday lists the following trips:

- Feb. 21-25 2013 -National Governors Association meeting, Washington: $395.
-Feb. 21-25 2013 -Republican Governors Association meeting, Washington: $2,750.
-May 14-15 2013 -Republican Governors Association Corporate Policy Summit, New Orleans: $2,100.
-Aug. 2 2013 -National Governors Association Hall of States, Milwaukee: $395.
-Sept. 7 2013 - Southern Governors Association Annual Meeting, Louisville, KY: $340.
-Sept. 16-17 2013 - Republican Governors Association Corporate Policy Summit, Charleston, S.C.: $2,125.
-Nov. 19-21 2013 - Republican Governors Association Annual Conference, Scottsdale, Ariz.: $5,200.

Progress NC filed a separate complaint against McCrory in January following an Associated Press report about more than $185,000 in cash and stock the governor received in 2013 from an online mortgage broker.

Meanwhile, Republicans fired back Monday, accusing Progress NC of its own conflict of interest Monday.

At a separate news conference before the one held by Progress NC, North Carolina Republican Party Executive Director Todd Poole charged that the lawyer for Progress NC also worked at the same law firm as the lawyer for the state Ethics Board. Poole said both the group and the ethics commission should have disclosed it.

"I think this blatant conflict of interest should have been disclosed and brought forward and the fact that it's been kept a secret is what is most troubling to me," said Poole.

Progress North Carolina Action Director Gerrick Brenner reacted by saying that Republicans are merely trying to distract from Governor McCrory's issues.

"They don't want to address any of the questions here. Do they have anything to say about the hotels? the stock?, the info? Do they have anything to say about that?

Progress NC also said it delivered Monday more than 11,000 petition signatures asking McCrory to allow the Ethics Commission to make its investigation public.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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