It’s something state lawmakers haven’t had to deal with in more than 100 years. Legislators in Raleigh are now grappling with how to expel Rep. Wright from the general assembly.
The last time members of the North Carolina General Assembly moved toward expelling a fellow lawmaker it was 1880. That means current lawmakers are in unfamiliar territory.
It only took four days for a House ethics panel to decide to move toward expelling eight-term legislator Thomas Wright.
House Speaker Joe Hackney is now leading a group of lawmakers and legislative lawyers to develop a strategy for what to do next. Most likely the speaker will ask the governor to call legislators back to session, which Gov. Easley has already said he would do, if asked.
But hackney has not yet made that request. He’s looking at the schedules of House members and considering Wright’s upcoming criminal trial. Wright is accused of misusing more than $350,000 dollars of campaign and loan money.
Lawmakers and members of Wright’s own party continue to denounce the actions of the Wilmington Democrat.
Rep. Carolyn Justice said, “If the state Board of Elections says that they have found by looking at his personal checking account and his election account that a couple hundred thousand dollars was donated to his campaign and it did not end up in his campaign account and it did end up in his personal account, those are things that are factual. These are not speculation these are facts.”
Dale Smith with the New Hanover County Democratic Party said, “We have an individual here who obviously is pursuing their own interests at a cost to the taxpayers.”
The last person to be kicked out of North Carolina’s General Assembly was Josiah Turner Jr. back in 1880. His behavior became erratic after losing a congressional race, but like Wright, refused to step aside. Several lawmakers since, including disgraced former House Speaker Jim Black, have chosen to resign voluntarily amid corruption allegations. Wright says it’s his constituents who should decide whether he should remain in office, and has filed to run for re-election in November.
If Hackney calls a special session, it would cost about $50,000 a day of taxpayer money.
Wright’s criminal trial is scheduled to being March 31.