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Southport locals think something's fishy about Easley and marina

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A federal investigation into alleged misdeeds by former governor Mike Easley are stirring hard feelings again in Southport. In 2006, Easley pushed to lease the state-owned Southport Marina to a Cary-based developer. It raised a lot of questions about his personal connections to people involved in the deal, questions that are now resurfacing. For Woody Wilson and Bill Duke, protecting the Southport Marina and keeping it open to the public is a priority, but their effort to do that a few years ago led to a battle with, and ethics complaint against, then-governor Mike Easley. "We knew when we filed this ethics complaint that there was smoke. We just couldn't build the fire,” said Bill Duke. Three years later, a federal probe is again looking at smoke from relationships between Easley and some of his donors. In 2006, Wilson, Duke and other members of Save Southport Marina questioned Easley's relationship with a developer whose name was connected with the marina lease deal. The State Ethics Board, appointed by Easley, threw out the complaint. “You didn't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that this was a whitewash of the accusations that we made,” Wilson said. After lots of work by the leaseholders, both Wilson and Duke admit they are pleased with the progress of the marina, where Wilson rents a slip. But they still say something is fishy about the deal. What also frustrates supporters of the marina is that this is not a governor from some other part of the state with no connections to the town. After all, Mike Easley has called Southport home for about 30 years. “It aggravates the livin' devil out of ya. You don't expect this to happen,” Wilson said. Easley was not at his Southport home to answer that question when WWAY stopped by and he has not returned a call to his Raleigh law office for comment. Neighbors on the other side of town hope if Easley did do something wrong here or elsewhere in the state he will have to answer for that. "During the Easley administration, I think we had enough of the sleazy politicians and just the undisciplined I’m-above-the-law attitude that we seem to find so prevalent,” Wilson said. Woody Wilson and Bill Duke said they hope federal investigators will come back to re-examine their allegations against Easley. In the meantime, they just hope the State Port Authority does not try to sell the marina to help pay for the international port in Southport proposed during the Easley administration.

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