Under the Dome

Indicted senator retains role running committees

Although he has been indicted on charges of federal and state campaign finance law violations, state Sen. Fletcher Hartsell remains a chairman or vice chairman of seven legislative committees.

On Tuesday, he ran a joint legislative oversight committee at the legislative building in Raleigh. A spokeswoman for Senate Leader Phil Berger said Hartsell has said he complied with the law, so “we will reserve further comment until this issue is resolved.”

House Minority Leader Larry Hall, a Democrat from Durham, emphasized that Hartsell is innocent unless proven guilty, but questioned his continuing to chair committee meetings.

“I’m sure that it may not affect his ability to chair it, but I think the observation that he is under indictment now makes it unseemly,” Hall said.

Hartsell’s attorney, Richard S. Glazer Sr. of Charlotte, said it would not be appropriate to comment.

“I’m honored to represent Sen. Hartsell but I have no specific comment on the charges,” he said.

Hartsell is the longest currently serving member of the Senate and is a Republican from Concord.

A federal grand jury indictment one week ago followed a Wake County grand jury indictment three months ago on related charges. Earlier this year he announced he would not seek re-election, and although the legislature adjourned for the year in July, his term is not over until the end of the year.

The federal charges allege Hartsell engaged in a scheme to solicit and obtain campaign money from 2007 through 2015 that he spent on personal items and services, and concealed it by filing false campaign finance reports. He allegedly spent campaign money on a trip to Charleston, haircuts, tickets to a musical, car repairs, lawn care an club memberships.

In state court, he is accused of certifying three campaign finance documents as correct while knowing they were not. The state charges are low-level felonies, but each of the federal charges carries a maximum sentence of 20 years and a $500,000 fine.

Craig Jarvis: 919-829-4576, @CraigJ_NandO