make WWAY your homepage  Become a fan on facebook  Follow us on twitter  Receive RSS Newsfeeds  MEMBERS: Register | Login

House committee recommends Wright be expelled

READ MORE:

RALEIGH (AP) - A special House ethics committee on Thursday unanimously recommended Rep. Thomas Wright be kicked out of office for committing financial fraud on a "breathtakingly massive" scale.

If the full House concurs, the eight-term Wilmington Democrat will be the first lawmaker expelled from the General Assembly in 128 years.

The committee ruled earlier in the day that Wright committed a variety of misconduct in his handling roughly $340,000 in loans and campaign and charitable contributions. The panel said clear and convincing evidence showed Wright failed to report $180,000 in campaign contributions, deposited $8,900 of charitable donations into his personal bank account, and persuaded a state official to write a bogus letter so he could take out a $150,000 loan.

Lawmakers were outraged at their finding that Wright failed to report 400 campaign contributions between 2000 and 2006.

"The best remedy for allegations of corruption is just a lot of sunshine, (but) what we have here is just a complete shutdown of the blinds so no one can see what Rep. Wright was receiving and what he was spending," said panel member Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake. "I held out the possibility that maybe there was an explanation ... but even that has not occurred."

After hearing the verdict, Wright didn't bother to stick around to learn of his possible punishment.

"I'm highly disappointed with my colleagues. This rush to judgment from day one is politically motivated, clearly," Wright said. "I am an elected official. I am their peer, and how dare my colleagues sit in judgment and pass judgment on me."

But the committee members, divided evenly between Democrats and Republicans, agreed during a solemn and brief debate that removing Wright from office was the only appropriate punishment.

"Rep. Wright holds public office because of his lies," said committee chairman Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland. "Rep. Wright's conduct makes this decision, for me, not even a close one."

Wright has consistently denied the allegations, but he declined to present any evidence during the four-day hearing. His attorneys said they didn't want to disclose their strategy before his March 31 criminal trial on allegations similar to those considered by the committee.

Bill Holmes, a spokesman for House Speaker Joe Hackney, said he did not know if legislators would return to Raleigh in a special session to consider the committee's recommendation. House leaders have previously said they want to resolve Wright's future as soon as possible, and a spokesman for Gov. Mike Easley said Thursday night he would call a special session at Hackney's request.

Holmes said Wright also could be booted if convicted of a felony at trial.

During closing arguments, Special Deputy Attorney General Alexander Peters said testimony showed that Wright intentionally avoided reporting campaign donations. In four campaign finance reports, Wright incorrectly reported that he had received no contributions when he had been given tens of thousands of dollars, Peters said.

"The fraud in this count on the public is breathtakingly massive," Glazier said. "I cannot conceive of another circumstance like that in this General Assembly."

One of Wright's attorneys, Irving Joyner, said his client should be allowed to amend his campaign reports, something he said hundreds of campaign committees did last year to fix mistakes.

"Instead of prosecuting Thomas Wright, we should be encouraging him to amend his report," Joyner said during his closing argument.

Wright has said he deposited the $8,900 in contributions into his personal bank account as "sweat equity" to reimburse himself for work he did for a charitable foundation he created in Wilmington. But the committee found that he had no authority to do so and that three companies who gave the money expected it to go for charitable endeavors.

The committee also said it was particularly displeased that Wright persuaded the director of the state Office of Rural Health to write a fake letter in 2002 that helped the Community's Health Foundation, which Wright created, take out a $150,000 loan. Wright wanted to use loan proceeds to purchase a downtown Wilmington building and turn it into a museum commemorating the city's 1898 race riots.

"Placing any state employee in that situation is just untenable," Glazier said. "To allow a legislator to do that, it utterly chills good government and effective government and fair government."

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Read more stories about Rep. Thomas Wright here

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.

»

Thomas Wright

Thomas Wright used campaign contributions for his own personal use. Why are we, the taxpayers continuing to pay his "expenses", such as for travel to and from Raleigh, to sit in on his own hearings? He deposited campaign funds into his personal accounts; I think Mr. Wright has enough discretionary monies to foot his own bills. He has disgraced his office and the people of New Hanover County and the biggest disgrace is he believes he's entitled to be a swindler.

What next?

Okay the committee has made its decision. What's next? I watched Wright on television last night, and the only thing that I could think about him was that he is so arrogant. He sat there with that stupid smirk on his face, and then had the audacity at the end to say that they shouldn't sit in judgment of him! He chose to do what he did, and now it is time to pay the price. Things might have been easier if he would have stood up and confessed like a real man would do, but he chose to hide in the sand, and not come out and be upfront about everything. He violated the trust of his voters and his constituents, and now it is time for him to leave!! He only proves his arrogance and disdain for the people he serves by choosing to run again. All I have to say is that if he gets voted in, all of you that vote for him, get what you deserve!

What is wrong with this

What is wrong with this picture?? His **s should be behind bars for what he did, and he is allowed to run again??? What does that say about us? I just don't understand what it is that this world is coming to when a liar and a thief can get caught and be allowed to run for office again!!!

There is a criminal

There is a criminal investigation...but that takes time. It's not over yet

Here's why

"I just don't understand what it is that this world is coming to when a liar and a thief can get caught and be allowed to run for office again!!!" >Because the ill-informed kool-aid drinkers keep re-electing the same bunch that they bitched about last week. Wright has an entire bunch of cronies in Raleigh that haven't been caught...yet. When he goes down, he'll sing like a caged canary. Then, we'll see how much s**t hits the fan.

Chuckles still getting his check

How dare they condemn this poor innocent theif...oh yeah, it's pretty easy, and obvious. Poor guy...all he did was steal, oh, and lie about it. That doesn't make him bad, does it? Oh, right, it does...thou shalt not lie and steal are covered by some kind of reference, somewhere. But at least Chuckles is still getting his check...so who's the dummy?

Predetermined

That's a pretty strong word to use by the defense that about the outcome. The thing to remember is that the the determining decisions were made long ago by Thomas Wright when he decided to be anything but an honorable office holder. You made your bed buddy, time to sleep in it. I hope they kick his butt right out on the curb and then the only thing left for him is jail when he faces the criminal charges against him. He should be held to a higher level as a representative of the people in his district. He choose differently, now he should pay. I only hope his vindictive side will pay off for the rest of us citizens when he rolls over on those in positions similar to his and tells all. Remember that he promised to do this. Maybe he will live up to this whilst trying to save his own skin. Start singing bro!

Now lets BOOT him from

Now lets BOOT him from office!!!!!!

wow

Wow, what a shock. Guess chuckles didn't see that coming.

Mr. Wrong

Chuckles is not from here. He does not understand the language of ethics. He is a victim, you see. He sees race in everything, even in toilet paper. He is sad and lonely and abandoned. We should feel sorry for him. His father probably beat him while his mother watched with intense ambivalence. He's a victim and should not be held accountable. He takes his anger out on The Man because he's been taught that is the only reeasonable thing to do. He's a victim. So he can victimize and get away with it. He's a victim, you see. It's what victims do, right? He is not as smart as others, because of his victimhood. He made an 'honeset' mistake; it's what happens when you're a victim...

wowowow

I bet he still has that smug look on his face too. Stinks to be him. bahahaa