N.C. Sen. Hartsell assembling records for state review

acurliss@newsobserver.comFebruary 1, 2013 

Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, Jr.

MLEWIS

A lawyer for state Sen. Fletcher Hartsell Jr. says he is still gathering documents related to campaign payments that state elections officials want to review. Meanwhile, new and conflicting information emerged about one of those payments.

Much of the focus is on about 120 separate credit card transactions over the past five years. Campaign reports show that Hartsell has used at least 10 credit cards, and he charged nearly $100,000 to his campaign while unopposed in the past two years.

Roger Knight, a Raleigh lawyer who specializes in campaign and elections law, said the documents will be reviewed for proper spending and accounting.

“It is taking a little time to do that,” Knight said. “This has raised a lot of questions and we are trying to fix them.”

Hartsell, a Republican from Concord, may have to amend previous reports and has said that he would repay for any personal expenses that should not have been paid by the campaign. State law prohibits candidates from using campaign funds for personal expenses.

Knight said Hartsell’s wife also carried some of the credit cards, but that he did not think other family members held them.

Separate from the credit card transactions are multiple payments from Hartsell’s campaign to his law firm and a company he owns, Equity Properties of Concord LLC.

There was conflicting information this week about one of those payments – $800 from the campaign to his property company in 2011.

The payment was reported in a campaign disclosure by Hartsell as being a charitable donation on behalf of the nonprofit Cabarrus Community Health Center, which has an office on McGill Avenue in Concord. At the same time, Hartsell’s campaign paid his property company another $1,600 and said it was on behalf of a multicultural community group.

Campaigns are allowed in North Carolina to give to charities, though typically such donations are made directly to the charity.

Knight said the $1,600 payment was to cover utility bills for the multicultural group, which is a tenant in a church building owned by Hartsell’s company.

He said Hartsell’s company had also handled landscaping for the community health center, which is across a lane from the church. Knight said the $800 from the Hartsell campaign to his Equity Properties was for “three or four months” of landscaping and clipping of bushes at the health center.

The health center’s CEO, Cappie Stanley, said in an interview that no money changes hands between the health center and Hartsell related to landscaping.

Stanley said Hartsell helps with part of the landscaping at the center but that he already receives “in exchange for his assistance” storage space on the health center’s property.

Knight said he could not explain all of the transactions yet, and that he would try to sort it all out.

“All I can say at this point is that this is the way Senator Hartsell did it,” he said.

Curliss: 919-829-4840

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