Politics & Government

Ethics panel clears McCrory in complaint

Gov. Pat McCrory
Gov. Pat McCrory Raleigh

A pair of ethics complaints that a liberal advocacy group filed against Gov. Pat McCrory earlier this year have been dismissed.

The governor disclosed the state Ethics Commission’s decision on Wednesday, saying it vindicated him in the face of a politically motivated “smear campaign.”

The complaints in January and March by Progress N.C. Action alleged a pattern of omissions and discrepancies in the economic interest disclosure forms that the governor is required to submit. The issues included his stock holdings from Duke Energy, his former employer; and Tree.com., where he served on the board of directors; as well as his role in his brother’s sales consulting firm.

Ethics Commission investigations into complaints are confidential under state law. However, the person who is the subject of a complaint can authorize the release of that information, which includes written responses to the allegations.

The governor’s office on Wednesday did not respond to requests to provide a copy of the commission’s decision or other information from the investigation. After McCrory made the decision public, Progress N.C. Action provided a copy of the dismissal letter, which was dated Oct. 14, to The News & Observer.

McCrory, in a written statement from his office, said the complaints were without merit.

“This was never about ethics,” McCrory said. “It was about politics.”

The governor said he would have kept the dismissal of the complaints confidential except for the fact that the group publicized the initial complaint in a news conference. McCrory said, “we are well beyond that point” of confidentiality.

“The people of this state deserve to know that at the end of this long process, all these complaints were thrown out,” he said.

Garrick Brenner, executive director of Progress N.C. Action, criticized the decision and called on McCrory to release his written responses to the complaints.

According to the notice of dismissal, the commission conducted a preliminary inquiry and found there was reason to proceed to a more comprehensive staff investigation, which included giving the governor an opportunity to respond in writing to the 585 pages of complaints and supporting documentation.

The results of that investigation were presented to a panel of the commission on Oct. 7 and Oct. 13, after which commissioners determined there was no probable cause to find that the governor had violated the state Ethics Act or other laws in its jurisdiction.

The Ethics Commission is comprised of eight members; four are appointed by the governor, with no more than two of the same political party; four are appointed by the General Assembly, also with no more than two of the same party. They serve four-year terms.

Craig Jarvis: 919-829-4576, @CraigJ_NandO