Carolina Journal News Reports
A Morganton barber was enlisted as a front man to hide who actually paid for a Perdue flight on this plane in December of 2007.
A Wake County grand jury indicted three people on Monday for illegal activity associated with the financing of Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue’s 2008 campaign for governor. The individuals – Trawick “Buzzy” Stubbs, of New Bern; Juleigh Sitton, of Morganton; and Peter Reichard, of Greensboro – all had key roles in that campaign.
Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby launched a criminal investigation of the Perdue Committee in October 2010. The same month Carolina Journal reported that Reichard and Stubbs were the key players involved in obtaining “aircraft providers” for the Perdue Committee.
[Read the complete series of Don Carrington’s stories on the Perdue campaign flights]
Stubbs was charged with obstruction of justice and causing the campaign committee to file false campaign reports. Specifically he exceeded the $4,000 contribution limit by using his law firm to pay for more than $28,000 worth of flights during 2007 and 2008.
Stubbs is a registered Republican and a seasoned political donor who has made over 250 campaign contributions to political candidates or committees over the past two decades. He was a law partner of Perdue’s late former husband and often described as a close friend of Perdue.
Sitton was also charged with obstruction of justice and causing the campaign committee to file false campaign reports. Her indictments state that for 16 months, during 2007 and 2008, she worked full time for the Perdue Committee, but received $2,000 of her $5,000 monthly pay from a source outside the campaign committee.
Charles Michael Fulenwider, a Morganton businessman, funneled the undisclosed pay totaling $32,000 through Reichard’s firm, Tryon Capital Ventures LLC. Sitton was an attorney in private practice before working for the Perdue Committee. In 2009 Perdue named Sitton director of the Western Governor’s Office in Asheville. Sitton resigned from that position in August.
Reichard, who served as the campaign finance director, was charged with obstruction of justice for soliciting and accepting the $32,000 from Fulenwider to pay salary to Sitton that went unreported. Reichard served for six years as president of the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce. Perdue appointed Reichard to the North Carolina Economic Development Board in 2009. Late on Monday, Perdue's spokesman Mark Johnson told CJ that Reichard is no
longer on the board.
Fulenwider not charged
Fulenwider has not been charged, but he appears also to be involved in activity dealing with falsely reported campaign flights. When a Wake County grand jury indicted Robert Lee Caldwell of Morganton Feb. 8 for obstruction of justice for his involvement in a Dec. 8, 2007 campaign flight for Perdue, it mentioned that “cash from an unnamed source” was used to pay for the flight. Caldwell’s case has not been scheduled for trial.
According to that indictment, Caldwell solicited a $3,048.50 check from Morganton barber James D. Fleming to pay for the flight, and then reimbursed him with cash from the “unnamed source.” Fleming’s check was used to hide the actual source of the funds, the indictment states.
The unnamed source, which the indictment made clear was someone other than Caldwell, has not been identified, but documents show that it was Fulenwider who chartered the aircraft. Fulenwider and his wife Joella were aboard the airplane with Perdue and her husband, Bob Eaves. Also aboard was Raleigh attorney Robert Zaytoun, co-chairman of Perdue’s 2008 campaign.
The story so far
After Carolina Journal and The News & Observer reported on former governor Mike Easley’s unreported use of private aircraft for his political campaigns, Perdue’s campaign committee quietly began revising her 2004 and 2008 campaign finance reports in 2009. Her campaign eventually disclosed and paid for 42 unreported flights valued at $56,000. Perdue and others associated with her campaign claimed that not reporting the flights was unintentional.
Then-state Republican Party Chairman Tom Fetzer didn’t accept that explanation. He claimed the unreported flights were a deliberate attempt to violate campaign finance reporting laws. In October 2009, he called on the State Board of Elections to launch an investigation. After a lengthy investigation by board staff, the board discussed the staff report at an August 2010 meeting.
The board’s three-member Democratic majority rejected a proposal from a Republican member to convene public hearings on Perdue’s flying activities, so it never questioned dozens of aircraft providers about their role in the free flights.
The board fined the Perdue campaign $30,000 and found “no intent of wrongdoing.” Immediately after the board hearing, Willoughby said he was going to review the case. In September, Willoughby acknowledged publicly that he asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into Perdue’s unreported flights because he thought the elections board might not have addressed the issues fully.
In October, Perdue acknowledged that federal authorities also were investigating her campaign. In February 2010, Perdue said she had hired high-profile criminal defense attorneys Joe Cheshire and Wade Smith for legal advice related to the state and federal investigations of her campaigns.
Gov. Perdue released the following response Monday afternoon:
Over a year ago, at the conclusion of several months of investigation by the State Board of Elections into certain flights provided to my campaign, the Wake County District Attorney began an investigation into any possible wrongdoing associated with those flights and my 2008 campaign.
My campaign committee cooperated fully with that investigation. Today, the District Attorney announced several charges arising from the investigation. At the District Attorney’s request, while those matters are pending, I will not comment on the specific charges or any aspect of the investigation. I will, however, reiterate what I made clear at the beginning of the investigation, and what the investigation has confirmed: as a citizen, a candidate for public office, and an elected official, I have strived to follow the rules and laws. I am proud of my record, and I remain sharply focused on strengthening our schools, creating jobs and moving North Carolina forward.”
In a December 2010 interview with CJ and other reporters, Gov. Perdue called the actions of members of her 2004 and 2008 campaign staff who did not report free campaign flights “inexcusable,” but would not identify who committed the violations that led to the $30,000 fine by the State Board of Elections. Nor would she say if anyone had been held accountable for those violations.