Sewell cancels fundraiser for Perdue

N.C. Board of Transportation member Louis Sewell Jr. on Tuesday canceled a fundraiser for Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue, hours after Perdue equivocated about whether she would attend.

“I think it is in the best interest of my family and everybody else involved to cancel the event,” Sewell said in a statement released by an attorney.

Sewell is the subject of a State Ethics Commission probe after The (Raleigh) News & Observer reported Sunday that he had steered roughly $375,000 of public money to road projects in Jacksonville adjacent to properties that he or his son co-owned at the time. Sewell has said he only sought to serve the public's interest.

Sewell is a fundraiser for Perdue. Perdue said Tuesday she supports the ethics investigation, but she was unclear about whether she would attend the fundraiser that was scheduled for Thursday night.

Perdue, a New Bern Democrat, said The N&O report left her “saddened and stunned.”

In one case, the money Sewell requested went to improvements at a busy, accident-prone intersection; in the other, a road was patched where a new elementary school and residential community opened.

State law requires transportation board members to refrain from seeking money for projects that might directly benefit them.

Perdue's opponent in the governor's race, Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, continued to press the issue Tuesday.

“Even sadly today there are newspaper articles about DOT board members who are putting roads through property they own, and no one knew about it,” said McCrory, a Republican. “Yet those same people are giving fundraisers for gubernatorial candidates. That's the type of mistrust and inefficiency we can no longer afford in North Carolina.”

Perdue would not say whether she would reappoint Sewell to the board if she is elected governor.

“Lord have mercy,” she said. “I'm trying to win the governor's race.”