Under the Dome

More than $23,000 went to GOP causes from Wake leader charged with embezzlement

The N.C. GOP announced Thursday that it plans to send the Wake County government a check for the amount of money – $383 – it received from a county leader accused of embezzling money.

If the local Republican Party wants to do the same, they’ll need a bigger check.

Campaign finance reports show that Laura Riddick, the former Wake register of deeds charged with embezzling $900,000 from the office, donated at least $23,589 to Republican candidates and organizations since she was first elected 20 years ago.

Of those donations since 1996, $9,680 went to the Wake County Republican Party, $2,361 went to Wake County Republican Women, $2,000 went to the Republican National Committee and about $8,718 went to 19 candidates.

Charles Hellwig, chairman of the Wake GOP, said the group’s board members will likely decide what to do with the money at their meeting in January.

“We’ll figure out a way to do the right thing,” Hellwig said Friday.

“We definitely don’t want dirty money,” Hellwig said a day earlier, after state GOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse announced his group would give away money from Riddick.

Riddick, a Republican who resigned earlier this year, turned herself in Wednesday. She is one of four former deeds workers charged with embezzlement.

Troy Ellis, Veronica Gearon and Murray M. Parker were also charged. More than $2.3 million has gone missing from the deeds office over a nine-year period.

News of the donations drew a strong reaction from the N.C. Democratic Party.

“Every single Republican politician that took this tainted money should return it to the taxpayers right now,” said Robert Howard, a spokesman for the party. “Anything less and they’ll be just as dirty as the money they took.”

Of the candidates Riddick donated to, former Gov. Pat McCrory received the most: $2,250. He couldn’t be reached for comment. Riddick gave a total of $1,500 to former Wake County commissioner Paul Coble, who ran for U.S. Congress.

Former state Rep. Marilyn Avila of Raleigh, who lost a re-election bid last year, received $738 from Riddick. And Riddick gave $650 to state Sen. Chad Barefoot of Raleigh, who has announced he won’t run for re-election. Barefoot said he was “shocked and saddened to learn about” Riddick’s situation.

“I believe Mrs. Riddick made a contribution to my campaign five or six years ago,” Barefoot said. “I plan to give the donation to charity or to Wake County, whichever is most proper.”

She also gave $500 to former state Sen. Richard Stevens, former Wake commissioner Tony Gurley and Mark Martin, chief justice of the N.C. Supreme Court.

Many of the donations were made to politicians who are no longer in office, including former legislators Paul “Skip” Stam of Apex and Leo Daughtry of Johnston County. State Sen. Tamara Barringer of Cary received $100.

Paul A. Specht: 919-829-4870, @AndySpecht