Louis W. Sewell Jr. a Board of Transportation member and fundraiser for Democratic candidates — including Gov. Mike Easley and gubernatorial nominee Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue — has resigned from the transportation board.
Sewell has come under scrutiny since The News & Observer reported Sunday that Sewell steered about $375,000 in state road money to two projects in Jacksonville near property owned by Sewell or his son, Dan Kane and Ben Niolet report.
The projects went to roads that needed work, but were also adjacent to valuable land.
In a news release, Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippett said: "Mr. Sewell has submitted his resignation today. I believe this action is in the best interest of the Board of Transportation, the department, the citizens and Mr. Sewell."
Tippett said last week that he was not aware of the extent of Sewell's real estate interests near the road work. Hours after a reporter explained Sewell's holdings last week, Tippett said he was forwarding the case to the N.C. State Ethics Commission.
In a news release announcing the resignation, Tippett included descriptions of the road work in question. The descriptions included the department's justification for the road work.
More after the jump.
Sewell was appointed to an at-large seat by Easley. As an at-large member, Sewell was to primarily be responsible for representing the interests of rural North Carolina. The at-large seats were created in 1998 as part of reforms enacted after some board members were found to have been steering road work to projects near their property. Board records show that Sewell has focused much of his energy on Jacksonville, where he lives.
A call to Sewell's attorney was not immediately returned.
Sewell has also become an issue in the race for governor. Republican nominee Pat McCrory has attacked Perdue over her ties to Sewell, who had planned to host a fundraiser in his home for Perdue this week. After saying she was unsure whether she would still attend the event, Sewell cancelled the fundraiser.
Sewell is the second board member and Perdue fundraiser to quit the board this year. Former board member Thomas Betts of Rocky Mount resigned in January after he sought to raise $20,000 in campaign money from country singer Randy Parton and the others behind the struggling performing arts theater in Roanoke Rapids. Betts had directed $2.5 million in road work to the theater over the previous year.