The investigation into Rep. Thomas Wright's campaign finances is now a criminal matter. State Board of Elections officials are not saying what prompted them to turn the case into a criminal investigation. But what started with a complaint filed against Thomas Wright has now turned more serious. Rep. Wright was noticeably absent from Thursday's meeting of City and county leaders. This, as the state Board of Elections turns up the heat on the investigation into his campaign reporting practices. Officials are now calling it a criminal investigation. Cape Fear Community College political science professor Ralph Kornegay said, "I'd be surprised if they didn't find something or they wouldn't keep going with it." Kornegay says more alarming than Wright's questionable campaign contributions is his role as chair on the house health committee. In 2005 the committee passed a bill almost unanimously that would have required certified registered nurse anesthetists to work under the supervision of doctors. But as chair, Wright single-handedly kept the bill from leaving his committee, essentially killing it. "He should have reported it to the floor," Kornegay said. "He should have given it to leadership for them to submit it. And apparently he elected not to. He elected to put it in his pocket and not allow a vote on it. That, to me, seems like a violation of public trust." After holding the bill in committee Wright accepted thousands of dollars worth of campaign contributions from certified nurse anesthetists. Representative Cary Allred of Alamance County was on the health committee at the time. He said, "I don't think a committee chair should hold a bill if the committee has voted on it, and then accept contributions from those people who have a personal economic stake in the bill." Allred went on to say that he would support an investigation by the house ethics committee. If the state Board of Elections determines Wright did violate campaign reporting laws, they would turn the case over to the wake county district attorney's office. Wright's lawyer Friday couldn't comment on the specifics of the case but said Mr. Wright is cooperating with the state Board of Elections investigation.
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