Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue said today she supports a State Ethics Commission investigation into an N.C. Board of Transportation member's steering of roughly $375,000 of public money to projects adjacent to properties that he or his son co-owned at the time.
But she was unclear about whether she intends to attend a fundraiser that the board member, Louis Sewell, is hosting for her Thursday night.
"I need to think about that," Perdue told The Charlotte Observer's Jim Morrill.
According to a copy of the invitation, the event is being held at Sewell's home in Jacksonville at 5:30 p.m. Perdue, a New Bern Democrat, has confirmed that Sewell is a fundraiser for her gubernatorial campaign.
On Sunday, The News & Observer reported the connections between Sewell and his son's real estate interests and Sewell's efforts to secure public money for transportation projects. Sewell has said he only sought the funding to take care of the public's interest.
Perdue did not answer 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."
Update: W. Douglas Parsons, an attorney in Clinton, said this afternoon that the fundraiser has been canceled.
"I think it is in the best interest of my family and everybody involved to cancel the event," Sewell said in a statement forwarded by Sewell.
More after the jump.
In one case, the money went to improvements at a busy, accident-prone interesection; in the other a road was patched where a new elementary school and residential community opened.
Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippett, at Gov. Mike Easley's encouragement, referred the matter for investigation. State law requires transportation board members to refrain from seeking money for projects that might directly benefit them.
Perdue said she read The N&O's report, and said she was "saddened and stunned and I am very supportive of what I was told yesterday, that it be referred to an ethics commission. We can't afford to have any public official or appointed official under the scrutiny that doesn't stand up to the light of the day."
Perdue appeared to not know that Sewell was holding a fundraiser for her. In response to Morrill's question, she turned to an aide who confirmed that the event was scheduled.
"The fundraiser's in Jacksonville and as I understand there are a lot of folks who are doing the fundraiser ... and so I'm very hopeful that I will keep the commitments I've made on the coast," she said.
Her opponent in the governor's race, Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, continued to press the issue Tuesday. He has called for Perdue to return all contributions given by Sewell and his son, Billy, over the past eight years.
"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," McCrory said. "Yet those same people are giving fundraisers to gubernatorial candidates. That's the type of mistrust and inefficiency we can no longer afford in North Carolina. I want to take the politics out of DOT."