Under the Dome

Audit settles ethics dispute

The state auditor and the State Ethics Commission have ended a battle stemming from an investigation into the handling of then-Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue's ethics files.

A state audit released today found that officials with the State Ethics Commission had not intentionally destroyed evidence in the matter, but did find that commission staff had not followed procedures in making the ethics statements available to the public, Dan Kane reports.

The case stems from a visit that Perdue's legal counsel, Will Polk, had made in October 2007, to review her ethics statements, which are an accounting of her financial interests. The statements are intended to help officials avoid conflicts of interest. Polk had been allowed to review the files behind closed doors. An aide, Amanda Thaxton, had noted in an electronic log that this was not the commission's policy; a staff email had told them not to let members of the public review ethics files without staff supervision.

Thaxton filed a complaint to the auditor's office, which then launched an investigation. She was later fired by the commission and has since filed a whistleblower's lawsuit that is pending in state court. The commission has denied that she was fired in retaliation. The audit did not address Thaxton's whistleblower claim. Copies of the log showed that her entry had been removed. But the auditor's report released today found that the change was made prior to the commission being notified of the auditor's investigation, so there was no evidence of tampering.

More after the jump.


The report also found that the electronic log was not secure, and that successive changes erased previous versions. In a response, commission Executive Director Perry Newson disputed whether the email directive pertained to cases in which public officials came in to review their filings or sent in representatives to do so. But he said the commission now requires staff supervise anyone reviewing the records.

Dennis Patterson, a spokesman for the auditor's office, said the commission needs to supervise those reviewing the records to prevent them from being altered. The records are central to ethics investigations, which can result in criminal charges if a public official used the statements to lie or mislead the public. Newson said the electronic log has been made secure, but he questioned the need to develop a system that would track every instance in which the log was changed.

The commission had filed suit last year to prevent the auditor's office, which was then led by Les Merritt, a Republican, from obtaining commission records. Patterson said the suit was settled in April with the commission agreeing to provide the records. By then, voters had elected a new state auditor, Beth Wood, a Democrat and who was not involved in the original dispute.


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Re: Audit settles ethics dispute

Concerned53, can you back up your claim that someone altered the files? Such an accusation was never in any article I read.

Re: Audit settles ethics dispute

Hope Thaxton wins her lawsuit, gets her job back and back pay. Perdue had sleazy Easley to learn from and she has learned well. She will be ousted in the 2012 election and will then be fully investigated and charged appropriately at that time. Hold on to your hats cause Bev is no better than Sleazy. I am a democrat but I sure did not vote for Bev.

Perdue's ethics still in question

Oh, I feel much better now given that we have a democrat as the new state auditor.

Keep in mind that Perdue's legal counsel, was not only given access in private, but if I recall correctly, made changes to financial statements in private so that possible conflicts or mis-statements would NOW be in compliance. Both Perdue and Polk knew exactly what they were doing.

This is just status quo for Easley and Perdue but we let Beverly get away with it. Perhaps because she is in office?

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