Gary D. Robertson, AP, March 20, 2008
The state House voted Thursday to remove Rep. Thomas Wright from office, the first such expulsion of a lawmaker from North Carolina’s General Assembly in 128 years.
The House voted 109-5 in favor of booting the Wilmington Democrat, who is accused of mishandling or hiding about $340,000 in loans and campaign and charitable contributions. At least 80 votes were needed to kick him out of office.
Wright was immediately escorted from the chamber by the House sergeant at arms. His attorney later promised to file a legal challenge to the House’s action.
Wright, who faces a criminal trial later this month on similar charges, has denied wrongdoing and called the proceedings a rush to judgment by his peers. Wright asked his colleagues not to expel him, arguing that he couldn’t adequately defend himself without revealing to prosecutors his criminal defense strategy.
Earlier this month, a special House ethics committee recommended Wright be removed from office after hearing several days of testimony.
The bipartisan group of fellow House members concluded Wright failed to properly disclose $180,000 in campaign contributions, deposited $8,900 of charitable donations into his personal bank account, and persuaded a state official to write a bogus letter about a state grant that, according to testimony, Wright used to take out a bank loan for a foundation he led.
Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, chairman of the ethics committee, told his colleagues before Thursday vote that Wright was given ample opportunity to present evidence during the hearing. Glazier said Wright filed 22 incorrect campaign reports since 2000 and failed to fix any of them.
“Forty percent of the dollars Representative Wright received for seven years was not reported,” Glazier said. “In the end, there is nary a substantive (campaign reporting law) in the statutes that was not violated repeatedly by Representative Wright.”