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Panel to investigate Patrol records

Two former judges and a former U.S. senator have been named to investigate the disappearance of state Highway Patrol records pertaining to then Gov. Mike Easley's travels in 2005.

N.C. Crime Control Secretary Reuben Young said today that Willis Whichard, a former state Supreme Court justice and former Campbell University law school dean; Robert Morgan, a former U.S. senator, former SBI director and former state attorney general; and Ralph Walker, a former superior and court of appeals judge and former director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, will conduct the probe, reports Dan Kane.

"Governor Perdue and I are determined to do everything in our power to find the answers regarding the 2005 records," Young said in a statement. "These three are dedicated public servants and have a history of impartiality and fairness."

The missing records are part of wide-ranging state and federal investigations into perks provided to Easley and his family. The patrol's records have helped show that Easley received free air travel from fundraisers whom he appointed to important positions in state government.

Read more after the jump.

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Last week, the patrol released a report saying the head of the governor's security detail, Capt. Alan Melvin, had told a patrol secretary in February 2006 to download the travel records from 2003, 2004 and 2005 onto a computer disk and then give it to him. He then told her to delete the records to free up space on the computer.

The patrol has been able to produce records for 2003 and 2004, but not for 2005. Melvin is on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

Young said the investigation's outcome will be made public.

He also said that the SBI will not be involved in the probe. SBI officials told him they were already assisting with the ongoing federal investigation, and will not conduct a separate investigation at this time.

Update: Perdue, who has declined to release the initial internal investigation of the missing records, issued a statement this afternoon about the panel that will investigative the matter.

“I find it unacceptable that the 2005 travel records from the prior administration have not been recovered," she said. "I have instructed Sec. Reuben Young to initiate an outside investigation to resolve the unanswered questions and expect it to be conducted thoroughly and expeditiously. The distinguished leaders who will conduct the investigation are held in the highest regard because of their dedication to public service and integrity.”

Update: Young said in an interview that the panel will not have subpoena power and is not conducting a criminal investigation, but "we will make available anyone in this department that they want to talk to regarding this matter."

He could not say how long the probe might take, though he and Perdue will "ask them to move as expeditiously as possible."

Young said he would not make the internal affairs investigation public because that could interfere with the federal probe. He said federal authorities have not asked for a copy.


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