First lady Mary Easley is using private money to pay state Sen. Tony Rand to be her attorney.
Rand, the Senate majority leader and a Fayetteville Democrat, has been representing Easley in her dealings with state Auditor Les Merritt, a Repbulican. A spokeswoman in the governor's office said Rand is not being paid with state funds.
Merritt released a report Thursday about two trips to Europe. In 2007, Easley and an assistant went to France. A year later, Easley and a delegation of state arts officials went to Russia and Estonia. The two trips cost taxpayers a total of $110,000. Merritt found that $45,000 worth of those expenses were unreasonable.
Merritt, who is seeking re-election, was criticized Thursday for releasing the report days before the election. He said it was only because he had tried for a month to ask Easley questions. Merritt released a list of his office's attempts.
The list shows that Merritt's staff and officials in the governor's office started trying to arrange an interview on Sept. 15. After agreeding to send questions by e-mail, Rand entered the picture on Oct. 10. On Oct. 13, Rand offerred to make his client available.
By then, Rand said, Merritt didn't want the interview.