State Rep. Ty Harrell resigns

STAFF WRITERSeptember 20, 2009 

— Rep. Ty Harrell, a Raleigh Democrat who has been under investigation over his campaign expenditures, submitted his resignation today.

Harrell said he needs to focus attention on answering questions about his campaign finances and on his young sons, as he and his wife are in the midst of divorce proceedings.

"The people of District 41, and all citizens of North Carolina, deserve representatives who can make clearly-focused decisions on their behalf," Harrell wrote in a letter to House Speaker Joe Hackney. "With the recent turbulence in my personal life and continued speculation about my campaign expenditures, I do not feel that I can provide the high standard of representation that my constituents expect and deserve."

Hackney asked the Legislative Ethics Committee to investigate Harrell's finances on Sept. 9, after the State Board of Elections began an audit of campaign expenses.

"Ty is to be commended for putting his children first as he works through the problems at hand," Hackney said in a prepared statement today. "Stepping down now shows great respect for our House of Representatives and the people of his district. I wish him well."

Harrell's campaign expense report for January through June of this year showed an unusual number of expenses for a year with no election. Many of the expenses were to restaurants at a time when Harrell had no source of income other than his nearly $14,000 legislative salary. In an earlier report, he listed paying $235 to a pricey children's clothing store and $191 to Sharon Luggage, with both identified as a "committee meeting." and the descriptions of the expenses often were listed as "donor recruitment," "strategy meeting" or other explanations that the elections board found insufficient.

The elections board's staff has since asked for more than 200 pieces of additional information on Harrell's filings, an unusually large request.

Harrell has been living outside his district for more than a month at a friend's house. His wife, Melanie Dupon, filed for divorce in July, alleging an extramarital affair.

In his letter to Hackney, Harrell thanked him, other lawmakers and voters for the opportunity to have served in the legislature.

"My parents always told me, and I believe, that public service is an honorable calling," Harrell wrote. "I answered that call by serving in the General Assembly as an agent for positive change. But holding public office can put significant strains on a young family and I am living proof of that."

mjohnson@charlotteobserver.com or 919-829-4774

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