Carolina Journal News Reports
Letter stating that Priya Sarathy had joined the Bev Perdue Committee in January 2008.
RALEIGH — An attorney who was compliance director and custodian of books for the Bev Perdue Committee for roughly six months in 2008, during which more than 40 questionable campaign-related flights took place, told Carolina Journal she has yet to be questioned by investigators looking into the flights.
Priya T. Sarathy — who recently married and now goes by Priya Sarathy Jones — now works for the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. As compliance director for the Perdue campaign, she would have been responsible for making sure that contributions to Perdue’s gubernatorial campaign followed state election laws.
The flights are at the heart of a State Board of Elections investigation that recently expanded to a criminal probe by the State Bureau of Investigation.
Reached by phone Oct. 7 at her Washington office, Jones told Carolina Journal she was not interested in speaking to reporters. She acknowledged she knew the SBI was investigating the Perdue Committee. “They have not contacted me. I am not interested in talking with reporters about this and I am not even living in North Carolina right now. I have no comment. I have no involvement with anything,” she said.
Jones worked for the Perdue Committee from January 2008 (PDF) through July or August 2008 — departing less than four months before the election.
In August, the State Board of Elections issued a $30,000 civil penalty against the Perdue campaign for belatedly reporting 42 flights. In a split vote, the board determined that the late reporting was not intentional.
A June 25 report by elections board investigator Kim Strach outlined a plan devised by Greensboro businessman Peter Reichard and New Bern attorney Trawick “Buzzy” Stubbs to assemble a group of aircraft providers for the Perdue Committee. Reichard served as finance director for the Perdue campaign and also was finance director for Mike Easley’s 2000 campaign for governor. Stubbs, a seasoned political donor, was a law partner with Perdue’s now deceased former husband.
Jones was not interviewed for Strach’s report, but Sue Jackson, her successor as compliance director, was. The report said campaign manager Zach Ambrose maintained internal forms documenting fully Perdue’s air travel but that Jackson was not on the distribution list for those forms (see PDF page 006). She told elections board investigators she was made aware of Perdue’s flights only when Ambrose presented her with an invoice for payment or when she received a form declaring a flight an in-kind contribution to the Perdue Committee.
It is not known whether this procedure was followed when Jones was Perdue’s compliance director. Even so, former Perdue campaign fundraiser Tate Johnson told CJ that the compliance director was responsible for ensuring that contributions were in line with state election laws (see related story).
Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby announced in early October that he had initiated a criminal probe of the Perdue Committee’s unreported use of private aircraft. He asked the SBI to assist him in the matter. The Wake County DA has jurisdiction over criminal matters involving state government.
Willoughby told CJ and other media outlets that he opened the investigation because he believes the board may have not been thorough in its review of the Perdue flight operations.
Jones is currently a grant program specialist in the Community Oriented Policing Services of USDOJ. The North Carolina offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U. S. Attorney’s Office, agencies within USDOJ, were responsible for the successful prosecutions of some prominent North Carolina Democratic politicians, including former state House Speaker Jim Black, former Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps, and former U.S. Rep. Frank Ballance.
A 2007 graduate of the University of South Carolina Law School, Jones was admitted to the North Carolina Bar in September 2007. She owns a home in Knightdale.
Don Carrington is executive editor of Carolina Journal.