Ty Harrell steps down from House seat

The Raleigh Democrat cites family issues and questions about his campaign finances.

Staff WriterSeptember 21, 2009 

— State Rep. Ty Harrell submitted his resignation Sunday, 11 days after the speaker of the House ordered an investigation into Harrell's campaign expenditures.

Harrell, a Raleigh Democrat in his second term, 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 two-page 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."

Harrell represented one of the few competitive districts in the state after knocking off incumbent Republican Russell Capps in 2006. Wake County Democratic Party leaders will select a replacement to fill the rest of Harrell's term, which ends at the end of 2010. The party of a legislator who leaves midterm picks the new lawmaker.

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

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

Harrell's campaign expense report for January through June listed 165 expenses, unusual for a year with no election. All but 17 were from 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."

The descriptions of expenses often were listed as "donor recruitment," "strategy meeting" or other explanations that the elections board found vague and insufficient.

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

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.

"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."

Hackney declined to discuss whether he encouraged Harrell to resign.

"There were conversations," he said, "but I'll leave those between Ty and myself."

mjohnson@charlotteobserver.com or 919-829-4774

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service