Carolina Journal News Reports
CJ Series

Gov. Easley / Marina / Cannonsgate / Fundraising

Gov. Mike Easley was the subject of a complaint, now dismissed by the N.C. Board of Ethics, over his relationship with owners of Southport Marina, Inc., who received a long-term lease to operate the state-owned marina. Opponents of the lease called it a "sweetheart deal" for Easley's friends. Meanwhile, business partners of those involved with the marina also own a coastal development called "Cannonsgate," where Easley purchased a valuable lot at a seemingly bargain price. Easley's campaign was fined $100,000 by the State Board of Elections in October 2009. He accepted a guilty "Alford" plea on a felony charge in November 2010. Easley's successor Bev Perdue was fined $30,000 by the Board of Elections for illegal unreported campaign flights in August 2010.

(9.11.13) Cooper’s ‘Win’ Against Coastal Developers Won’t Go Far
RALEIGH — A settlement touted by North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper on Sept. 3 as a “win” for investors victimized by two questionable developments on the North Carolina coast promises to provide only pennies-on-the-dollar restitution to those who lost money in the transactions.

(12.20.12) CJ Editorial: Mary Easley Gets A Holiday Gift
Mary Easley could get a cool million bucks in extra pension benefits from taxpayers, and she'll never have to explain to the people of North Carolina how she got her sweetheart of a job.

(1.23.12) Easley Moved Around Big Money As He Refused to Pay Campaign Fine
RALEIGH — State law did not require Easley to pay the State Board of Elections fine from personal funds, but he publicly has accepted responsibility for filing false campaign reports. The State Bar will reinstate his law license in December.

(5.31.11) Corruption Charges Stop at Easley and Top Aide
RALEIGH — Court documents show that five prominent individuals were implicated in questionable and potentially illegal financial schemes involving former Gov. Mike Easley and his general counsel, Ruffin Poole. None were charged with crimes.

(5.18.11) Top Easley Aide Gets One-Year Prison Term
RALEIGH — Federal prosecutors said Poole’s sentence closes the investigation of Easley, who entered a guilty plea last fall for failing to file an accurate campaign report related to an unreported free flight he received from a donor.

(11.29.10) Media Reports Drove Easley Investigation
RALEIGH — U.S. Attorney George Holding said the federal probe of former Gov. Mike Easley began in February 2009 and resulted from investigative reports in the media.

(11.24.10) Easley Cops a Plea in Campaign Finance Probe
RALEIGH — Mike Easley became the first governor in North Carolina history to be convicted of a felony connected to his conduct in public office after prosecutors and Easley’s attorneys reached a plea deal on state charges Tuesday.

(11.24.10) A Prosecutor Becomes a Felon
Try as they might, Easley’s defenders can’t spin their way out of this: North Carolina’s former governor is a felon.

(11.24.10) CJ Editorial: Gov. Easley, We Apologize
We never should have suggested that the former governor did anything inappropriate.

(11.23.10) Carolina Journal News Reports May Be Key to Easley Plea Deal
RALEIGH — Don Carrington first reported on Easley’s free flights in October 2008, months before other media outlets. At the time, Easley campaign attorney John Wallace insisted the flights had been paid for, but the State Board of Elections concluded they had not.

(10.01.10) CJ Editorial: Reuben Young Channels Sgt. Schultz
Former Gov. Mike Easley's top lawyer has a faulty memory.

(10.01.10) Elections Board Has Not Interviewed Donors About Flights
RALEIGH — Elections Board Chairman Larry Leake acknowledged to Carolina Journal that the board has questioned only one flight provider under oath at a public hearing, and, further, that it has not taken sworn testimony from any campaign workers about the questionable flights.

(9.30.10) Why Did Perdue Campaign Not Use Cheaper State Plane?
RALEIGH — Bev Perdue's 2008 campaign committee used a convoluted and inefficient system to arrange flights for her gubernatorial campaign.

(9.22.10) Easley Attorney Did Not Notice Senders or Recipients of E-mail Records
RALEIGH — By failing to identify the senders or recipients, or choosing not to notice whether the e-mails were sent from government accounts or private e-mail providers, it would have been difficult for Reuben Young to determine whether the documents he was reviewing were public records dealing with state business or personal correspondence.

(8.27.10) Perdue Campaign Advised Stubbs on Flights
The discussion between attorney Trawick "Buzzy" Stubbs and Perdue campaign officials shows a greater involvement than has been admitted by the campaign in efforts to find ways to report, after the fact, flights that violated state campaign law.

(8.26.10) Why Shouldn’t I Believe Them?
I believe Wallace’s explanation that the reason the Perdue team had failed to report the 42 flights was because the campaign kept sloppy records.

(8.24.10) VIDEO: Perdue Campaign Fined $30,000 For Unreported Flights
ASHEVILLE — The board voted 4-1 in favor of the fine. Republican member Bill Peaslee was the only member to vote against. Another motion to hold public hearings related to the investigation of campaign flights failed by a 2-3 vote.

(8.23.10) Perdue Attorney Knew About Unreported Campaign Flights
RALEIGH — Gov. Bev Perdue's campaign received more than $28,000 in unreported free air travel over a 20-month period from her friend New Bern attorney Trawick "Buzzy" Stubbs, according to a report by State Board of Elections investigator Kim Westbrook Strach.

(4.19.10) Easley Right-Hand Man Ruffin Poole Pleads Guilty to Income Tax Evasion
RALEIGH — In a surprise move, Gov. Mike Easley’s former legal counsel and top aide Ruffin Poole pleaded guilty to one count of income tax evasion Monday in exchange for prosecutors conditionally dropping all other federal charges against him.

(4.19.10) VIDEO: Top Easley Aide Takes Plea Deal From Federal Prosecutors
RALEIGH - Ruffin Poole agreed Monday to work with federal prosecutors investigating former Gov. Mike Easley. Poole changed his plea to guilty in connection with a 57 count indictment of corruption. He admitted to just one of the 57 charges — income tax evasion. The government agreed to drop the remaining charges in exchange for Poole's cooperation in its investigation of Easley.

For the full report on Poole's plea agreement, click on the link.

(4.05.10) Ex-Easley Lawyer Pleads Not Guilty to Corruption Charges
RALEIGH — Former Gov. Mike Easley’s top aide and right-hand man, Ruffin Poole, pleaded not guilty to 57 corruption counts in federal court Monday, ensuring that prosecutors’ case against the 38-year-old Raleigh lawyer will go to trial.

(3.18.10) Ex-Easley Lawyer Brought Up On New Corruption Charges
RALEIGH — Ruffin Poole, a top aide during Easley’s two terms as governor, now is indicted on 57 charges. He faces three new counts of income tax evasion and three of use of facilities in interstate commerce in aid of racketeering, both having a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

(2.12.10) Advice Perdue Should Take
In the minds of many North Carolina voters, the Perdue administration is a continuation of the Easley administration. That’s a bit unfair on two counts.

(2.12.10) Loophole in Governor’s E-mail Retention System
RALEIGH — After a series of fiascos involving deleted e-mails by state officials, a new archiving system for employee e-mails will capture messages en route to workers’ inboxes, retaining them for 10 years as public records.

(2.11.10) Advice Perdue Should Take
In the minds of many North Carolina voters, the Perdue administration is a continuation of the Easley administration.

(2.10.10) Ex-Easley Aide’s Trial Could Start in April
RALEIGH — A criminal trial of former Gov. Mike Easley’s top aide, Ruffin Poole, is slated to begin April 26, despite a request from Poole’s attorney that the start date be pushed back to late summer.

(2.04.10) Depositions Could Pose Legal Peril for Easley Aides
RALEIGH — Several aides to former Gov. Mike Easley could be in legal jeopardy based on conflicting statements they gave in sworn depositions.

(2.01.10) Inquiries Take Toll on Easley Team
RALEIGH — When a federal grand jury indicted former Gov. Mike Easley’s legal counsel Ruffin Poole Jan. 21, it was just the latest setback for an Easley associate since the state’s media began investigating the former governor’s activities.

(1.28.10) Former Easley Aide Arrives at Courthouse in Handcuffs
RALEIGH — Gov. Mike Easley’s former right-hand-man, Ruffin Poole, made his first appearance in federal court today on charges stemming from his close ties to the embattled former governor.

(1.21.10) Easley “go to guy” Poole indicted for bribery, extortion, money laundering
RALEIGH — Ruffin Poole, former Gov. Mike Easley’s general counsel and top aide, was indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury on 51 corruption counts. The 64-page indictment includes charges of extortion, bribery, racketeering, money laundering, violation of honest-services laws, and monetary transactions involving criminally derived property.

(1.04.10) Easley Ethics Forms Omitted Rental Income
RALEIGH — Former Gov. Mike Easley failed to list income from the rental of his Raleigh home on at least three consecutive annual economic interest statements — a violation of state ethics laws.

(12.17.09) Ex-Easley Lawyer Pleads the Fifth, Ducks Testimony
RALEIGH — Mike Easley’s longtime legal aide and law partner, Ruffin Poole, ducked a State Board of Elections’ subpoena Thursday by pleading the Fifth Amendment, the second time since October that Poole has avoided testifying before the board about his relationship with the former governor.

(12.10.09) Judge Orders Former Easley Staffers Deposed
RALEIGH — Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard Manning declined to dismiss a public-records lawsuit brought by several media outlets, including Carolina Journal, until four former staffers of Gov. Mike Easley have been deposed in the matter.

(12.09.09) Cooper: Easley’s lawbreaking doesn’t matter
RALEIGH — Attorney General Roy Cooper has asked a state judge to dismiss a lawsuit against embattled former Gov. Mike Easley and several top officials from his administration, arguing that because Easley is no longer in office, and others named in the suit no longer hold the jobs they did with Easley, they cannot be held liable for alleged violations of the state’s open records law.

(12.04.09) What a Year to Return to North Carolina
RALEIGH — A few days ago, my wife — who’s not at all ashamed of her liberal sensibilities — read Carolina Journal's most recent news story about a real estate scandal involving former Gov. Mike Easley, and said, “Good lord, we’ve moved to Chicago!”

(11.30.09) Rand Key Player in Easley Property Swap
RALEIGH — New information developed by Carolina Journal shows former Gov. Mike Easley acquired a lot and a home on exclusive Bald Head Island some years earlier with the assistance of state Sen. Tony Rand of Fayetteville. It’s unclear from the public reords how much Easley paid for the property.

(11.30.09) Rand Key Player in Easley Property Swap
RALEIGH — New information developed by Carolina Journal shows that former Gov. Mike Easley’s 2005 Cannonsgate real-estate deal was not the first time Easley was involved in a deceptive land transaction.

(11.23.09) Golden LEAF Retains Close Ties to Easley
RALEIGH — As federal prosecutors investigate alleged campaign finance violations and other suspected wrongdoing by embattled former Gov. Mike Easley, his law partners and other associates continue to play key roles in the management of the Golden LEAF Foundation, which distributes half of the state’s tobacco settlement money.

(11.18.09) Easley campaign manager arrives at federal courthouse
RALEIGH — Jay Reiff authored and is believed to have written a series of memos organizing what appeared to be an elaborate scheme letting large Easley donors evade campaign contribution limits.

(11.05.09) A Guide to the Main Players at the Easley Hearings
RALEIGH — In late October, the state Board of Elections convened a hearing to investigate alleged campaign finance violations by former Gov. Mike Easley. The board made a criminal referral to the Wake County District Attorney. Carolina Journal has compiled a photo gallery of the board members, the witnesses, and other participants.

(10.30.09) Campbell Lambasted in Fourth Day of Easley Hearings
RALEIGH – A fourth day of hearings Thursday in a North Carolina Board of Elections’ probe into alleged criminal wrongdoing by former Gov. Mike Easley began with a whimper and ended with a bang.

(10.30.09) Board of Elections Refers Easley Case to Wake County Prosecutors
RALEIGH — On Friday, the state Board of Elections in a unanimous vote asked the Wake County District Attorney’s Office to open a review investigating the possibility that the former governor, among others, may have violated the law.

(10.29.09) Easley Testimony Contradicts Campbell, Undercuts Own Party
RALEIGH — Former Gov. Mike Easley, the subject of a North Carolina Board of Elections’ investigation, testified nearly five hours Wednesday during a third day of hearings into alleged fundraising fraud by his campaign. His testimony often contradicted past witnesses’ accounts — and at times, the former governor said things that seemed to be at odds with statements he had made earlier in the day.

(10.29.09) What the Scandal Doesn’t Mean
If you blame the political system rather than the perpetrator for scandalous behavior, you’re making excuses for his behavior.

(10.28.09) Witnesses Can’t Recall Much in Second Day of Easley Hearings
RALEIGH — Forgetfulness was a recurring theme through a second day of a hearing Tuesday in the North Carolina Board of Elections’ ongoing investigation into alleged campaign finance wrongdoing by former Gov. Mike Easley.

(10.27.09) Trail of Ethical Lapses, Donation Irregularities Emerges at Easley Hearings
RALEIGH — The testimony highlighted slipshod record-keeping of five-figure donations, promises from Easley staffers that money would be diverted from Democratic Party coffers to the governor’s campaign, and accounts of services provided to the governor that were not disclosed in a timely manner and not reimbursed, as the law requires.

(10.26.09) Hearing on Easley Campaign Finances Convenes This Week
RALEIGH — Monday at 11 a.m., the North Carolina Board of Elections will convene a hearing to investigate allegations of campaign-finance violations by former Gov. Mike Easley, donors to Easley's campaigns, and officials of the state Democratic Party.

(10.06.09) Location Set for Easley Hearings
RALEIGH — The election board, made up of three Democrats and two Republicans, will receive a report from its staff about possible election law violations by former Gov. Mike Easley’s campaign organization, the North Carolina Democratic Party, and several campaign contributors.

(10.01.09) Why Corruption Matters
These days, it can be difficult for newspaper readers to tell the difference between the state news section, the gossip page, and the crime blotter.

(7.03.09) Where No Guv Has Gone Before
North Carolina is experiencing something unprecedented in modern times: an unpopular first-term governor.

(6.09.09) A Twin-Deficits Problem
Hunt and Easley presided over North Carolina state government at different times, and they brought different personalities to the job.

(5.27.09) Mary Easley Will Go
It defies understanding why Mary Easley thinks, in the face of all this, that she can retain her job. I suspect she knows she's not staying.

(5.21.09) Easley Saga’s New Twist
Something may have gone haywire on Sen. Kay Hagan’s advisory panel that made it impossible for her to recommend a replacement of U.S. Attorney George Holding.

(5.11.09) Why The Easleys Did It
Political corruption is a creature of power, especially the power created by longtime incumbency, insularity, and lack of competition.

(5.04.09) Easley Land Deal Gaining Interest
RALEIGH — Federal authorities and state media have turned their attention to a Carteret County real estate development in which former Gov. Mike Easley bought a lot in 2005. Carolina Journal first reported in 2006 on Easley’s purchase of a lot in the Cannonsgate development. An analysis of other transactions showed Easley got what The Charlotte Observer called a “sweetheart deal.”

(10.20.08) Clues Point to Secret Easley Air Service
RALEIGH — Clues to the whereabouts of the elusive Gov. Mike Easley often can be found in the friendly skies in aircraft flown by an Elizabethtown businessman and his sons, aviation and anonymous sources say.

(9.29.08) Questions Surround Mary Easley’s NCSU Job
RALEIGH — Some questions still surround first lady Mary Easley’s initial hiring at NCSU at $80,000 a year although the UNC Board of Governors on Sept. 12 approved a $90,000 pay raise and five-year contract for her at NC State.

(7.30.08) Provost Says He Acted Alone in Hiring
RALEIGH — The provost of NCSU says that he alone hired first lady Mary Easley in 2005 and that he approved her 88 percent pay raise to $170,000 a year July 1. Meanwhile, conflict-of-interest questions surround the involvement of the NCSU Board of Trustees chairman in the approval of Ms. Easley's raise.

(7.02.08) Mary Easley Gets 88 Percent Pay Raise
RALEIGH — On the same day her lavish spending on an overseas trip was front-page news, Gov. Mike Easley’s wife Mary received a $79,700 pay raise for her job at North Carolina State University, according to public records obtained from the school.

(6.02.08) Taxpayers Fund Easley Coastal Trips
RALEIGH — When Gov. Mike Easley and the first lady fly in state aircraft, most of their trips include a connection to Brunswick County, where the couple owns two homes. Easley does not reimburse the state for any portion of the coastal trips, although state documents apparently require that he do so.

(3.19.07) Easley Ends Suit, Gets House Deal
RALEIGH — In June 1996, one year after N.C. Attorney General Mike Easley settled a lawsuit and granted exceptions to state beach-erosion laws for homeowners at Bald Head Island, the island’s developer sold Easley and his brother a new home — for at least $70,000 less than a comparable home.

(1.17.07) Easley's Lot Gains $648K in Year
RALEIGH — Waterfront property in Carteret County owned by Gov. Mike Easley has gained $648,365 in value since he bought the lot in an exclusive subdivision only a year ago, according to Carteret County tax records.

(10.27.06) Easley Withheld Info On Land Deal
RALEIGH — When Gov. Mike Easley recently urged top state officials to approve the acquisition of a 36-acre parcel of land in Beaufort, he failed to mention that deeds transferring the property to the state had already been recorded. He also failed to mention growing financial problems of the nonprofit organization donating the land.

(10.23.06) Multiple Means of Accountability
Elections and effective self-government are not synonymous. It might seem an odd time to say this, with elections in just two weeks, but the point is that other checks exist on politicians besides periodic balloting.

(9.19.06) Will Scandals Affect Nov. Elections?
RALEIGH — Less than two months remain before the elections in November, and while Republicans nationally worry how scandals and spending could lessen their prospects for maintaining power in Congress, in North Carolina it’s the reverse — Democrats fear that corruption might be their undoing.

(7.12.06) Easley Thwarts Berry Request
RALEIGH — Gov. Mike Easley, saying proper procedure had not been followed, thwarted Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry’s attempt in a Council of State meeting Tuesday to learn the identities of the individuals awarded a new lease for the state-owned Southport Marina property.

Related Easley/Marina/Cannonsgate Articles:
CJ: Berry wants marina owners known
CJ: SAS has role in marina deal
CJ: Board dismisses Easley complaint
CJ: Easley didn't disclose relationship before vote

(7.10.06) Berry Wants Marina Owners Known
RALEIGH — For the past year the issue of exactly who controls the state-owned Southport Marina has proved to be controversial for Gov. Mike Easley. Tomorrow, Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry hopes the public will learn who will benefit from a new lease that Easley coaxed through the approval process in January.

Related Easley/Marina/Cannonsgate Articles:
SAS has role in marina deal
Board dismisses Easley complaint
Easley didn't disclose relationship before vote

(6.27.06) SAS Has Role in Marina Deal
RALEIGH — Officials with the Cary-based software company SAS have acquired a role in operating the state-owned Southport Marina even though SAS’s involvement was not publicly mentioned in January when Gov. Mike Easley coaxed a new lease through the approval process.

Related Easley/Marina/Cannonsgate Articles:
CJ: Easley didn't disclose before vote
N&O: SAS's Goodnight a marina owner (scroll down)

(6.08.06) Board Dismisses Easley Complaint
RALEIGH — The North Carolina Board of Ethics yesterday decided against further investigation of a complaint against Gov. Mike Easley over his relationship with Southport Marina leaseholders, who also happen to be his campaign contributors.

Related Easley/Southport Marina Articles:
CJ: Easley didn't disclose before vote
CJ: Easley got pricey lot at bargain rate
'People take shots at you when you're in public life'
Garrett expects to be contractor for marina renovations

(4.27.06) Easley Got Pricey Lot at Bargain Rate
RALEIGH — Gov. Mike Easley appears to have received a bargain price on a lot he purchased apparently through a political donor in December in a “most coveted” community on the Bogue Sound in Carteret County, according to land records.

Related Article:
Easley didn't disclose relationship before vote

(3.13.06) Easley Didn't Disclose Relationship Before Vote
RALEIGH — Gov. Mike Easley failed to disclose a personal business relationship — a $150,000 home-remodeling contract — with Wilmington developer Charles “Nick” Garrett, Jr. before calling for a Council of State vote to approve a lease of the state-owned Southport Marina to Garrett and his associates, Carolina Journal has learned.