The Locker Room

Board of Elections/Easley hearing update

Posted by David N. Bass at 4:50 PM

SBOE wraps for the day, 4:45 p.m.

The Board of Elections called it quits for the day just a moment ago. They'll convene at 9:30 tomorrow morning.

Garrett questioned about children's donations, 4:40 p.m.

Garrett was asked whether he was ever encouraged to give funds through his children. He denies doing that.

“I do remember there were some children that did write some money," he said. He named Rusty Carter, a fraternity brother of Easley who provided air service to the governor, as an individual he said might have donated through his children.

He didn’t know whether it was the children’s money or their parents’ money.

Nick Garrett called to testify, 4:30 p.m.

Garrett, a developer who oversaw renovations of Easley's home in Southport, is now testifying.

Garrett said it’s a “fair statement” to say that it was understood that donating money to the Democratic Party in the state was a way of funneling money to Easley’s campaign.

"It was my understanding that it was a legitimate way" of doing it, Garrett said.

Wilson discusses contributions, 4:15 p.m.

Wilson testifies about campaign contributions to the Easley campaign and to the state Democratic Party.

Photo credit: Don Carrington

Lanny Wilson testimony begins, 3:45 p.m.

Lanny Wilson, a real estate developer whose business provided $12.5 million in financing for Cannonsgate, is now testifying before the board.

Subpoena quashed, 3:45 p.m.

Shortly after Grace Ramsey finished testifying, Leake announced that the superior court had quashed the Board of Election's subpoena of Ruffin Poole.

The board voted to appeal the matter to the Court of Appeals.

Grace Ramsey, a Florida businesswoman and donor to the Easley campaign, now testifying, 3:25 p.m.

Ramsey said she is not a Democrat and has seldom given to the Democratic Party or its candidates. She testified that she made an "in-kind" contribution of Christmas oranments to the Easley Committee because Easley's wife, Mary, is of Greek descent, and so is Ramsey.

Rebecca McGhee, a former assistant campaign treasurer, begins testifying, 3:15 p.m.

Board takes a 50-minute lunch break, 2:15 p.m.

Robert Bleecker begins testimony, 1:50 p.m.

Robert Bleecker, an auto dealership owner, is now testifying about a GMC Yukon SUV that he provided to Easley in 2003.

“Mr. Easley and I had an understanding that he would pay for the car when he got through using the car," Bleecker said.

Photo credit: David Bass

He said they put lease tags on it, but there was no traditional documentation for a lease. He said he expected Easley to pay the difference between the value of the car at the time and its value when the former governor turned it in.

Bleecker said he’s never had an arrangement like this with another customer.

Bleecker said he received a check from Mary Easley for around $6,900 for the Yukon in March 2009, after his manager called and asked to be paid for it. Bleecker then transferred the title over to Easley.

Poole will testify another day, maybe, 1:47 p.m.

Ruffin Poole won't have to testify today.

“We will release you and your client to go meet with the Superior Court judge … we will wait for further input as it relates to Mr. Poole and yourself," Leake told Poole's lawyer.

Campbell testimony over; board takes 5-minute break, 1:30 p.m.

Campbell hurried out of the room after his testimony. A gaggle of reporters and photographers followed him out.

Quite a start to the hearings.

Ruffin Poole is now in the house as well.

Easley lawyer grills Campbell on Mary Easley's job, 1:23 p.m.

Easley's lawyer, Thomas Hicks, is now questioning Campbell about his tenure on the Board of Trustees and his involvement with Mary Easley's job.

The reason for Campbell's resignation from the Board of Trustees was because "you made a false statement to the public and also to other officials in the university system relating to the hiring of Mrs. Easley," Hicks said.

Campbell denied it. “That’s not correct," he said. "I resigned because I wanted to avoid bringing any negative publicity to a university that I loved. When I was asked a question, I answered it just as truthfully as I could.”

A few minutes later, Campbell acknowledged that he helped Mrs. Easley get her job, but he denied any internal politics on the matter.

Hicks then pressed Campbell about whether he's made "multiple false statements to the media" about Mrs. Easley's job.

Easley attorney questions Campbell, 1:05 p.m.

Easley attorney Thomas Hicks is questioning Campbell about his activities relating to the former governor.

Photo credit: David Bass

Campbell testifies on Easley home repairs, 12:55 p.m.

Campbell testifies that Easley twice asked him to help with repairs to his house. Campbell agreed to coordinate workers to help with the repairs and to pay them. He said that Easley did not reimburse him for the repairs in a prompt manner.

“I fully anticipated to get reimbursed for it," Campbell said. "When he asked me to help him, it was conveyed to me that I would be paid back.”

Campbell said that he called up Easley to talk with him about getting reimbursed for the repairs, and Easley indicated that it would be paid for by the campaign.

“So the Easley campaign and its contributors actually paid for the repairs to Gov. Easley’s home?” Leake asked.

"That's correct," Campbell responded.

Campbell testimony, 12:20 p.m.

Leake proceeds to question Campbell extensively about his use of aircraft with the former governor. Campbell says he can't recall when he first started flying Easley around the state, but it began while Easley was attorney general and before his election as governor.

Photo credit: David Bass

He says that Easley never asked him directly to fly him around. The requests always came from Easley's campaign staff.

At some point, Campbell said that Easley began to request that he keep track of the number of flights they took together.

Campbell says that he doesn't recall flying the former governor around for campaign events.

Campbell called to testify, 12:06 p.m.

McQueen Campbell just called to testify under oath.

Ruffin Poole lawsuit, 11:54 a.m.

Board of Elections reconvenes after a 30-minute closed session. Leake announces that Ruffin Poole, Easley’s general counsel and now his law partner, has sued the Board of Elections over the board's subpoena of Poole to appear and testify today at 1 p.m.

"The Attorney General's office is proceeding to handle that matter for us expeditiously," Leake said.

Closed session, 11:10 a.m.

Minutes after convening, the Board of Elections voted to go into closed session to discuss some matters relating to the "criminal inquiry" into controversies surrounding former Gov. Mike Easley, according to board chairman Larry Leake.

“The board has the necessity of doing some things in closed session,” Leake said.

Leake also stressed that although he used the term "criminal inquiry," that does not suggest that any criminal conduct has occurred.

"Any inference to that effect based on this inquiry or my statement would be erroneous," he said.

McQueen Campbell arrives, 10:48 a.m.

McQueen Campbell and his lawyer just walked into the State Board of Elections hearing at the Clarion Hotel in downtown Raleigh.

Campbell, who was chairman of the N.C. State Board of Trustees before resigning over the Mary Easley job scandal, is one of 31 witnesses subpoened to testify.

Photo credit: Don Carrington

State Democratic Party responds to hearing, 10:11 a.m.

From N.C. Democratic Party executive director Andrew Whalen:

“For our democracy to function effectively, it is imperative that the people of North Carolina have confidence in the electoral process. We are confident that a fair, impartial, and unbiased hearing by the State Board of Elections will help restore and maintain trust in the integrity of our political system. The North Carolina Democratic Party has cooperated fully with the SBOE and will continue to do so throughout this hearing.”

Stay tuned to The Locker Room and for updates throughout this week's hearing.

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