Board settles Hise probe for $4,500
RALEIGH – The Ralph Hise for NC Senate Committee reached an agreement Tuesday, Nov. 27, with the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement whereby the State Board will close its investigation of the complaint filed against the Committee in March 2017 by a private citizen.
Hise’s campaign committee will pay the state elections board $4,000 to reimburse the cost of investigating the allegations, and pay $500 into a civil penalty and forfeiture fund that helps fund schools.
“I appreciate the board’s staff for its fairness and professionalism,” Hise said. “After cooperating fully to resolve bookkeeping mistakes and make clear our campaign’s expenditures were completely legitimate, I’m pleased the facts won the day and that my family can move on.”
The state board of elections began investigating Hise in the spring of 2017 after he allegedly paid himself more than $10,000 from his campaign fund; failed to report receiving $9,250 from political action committees; and failed to provide required information about his donors and expenditures on his campaign reports between 2013 and 2016.
The claims against Hise stemmed from two complaints filed in March 2017 by Greg Flynn, a Raleigh-based independent government watchdog.
Hise said in an emailed statement after the decision his committee has cooperated with the investigation from the beginning, and he retained the services of a certified public accountant to conduct an “exhaustive analysis of the committee’s reports and expense records, correct any missing information on the reports and confirm that all expenses paid were legitimate campaign expenses.”
Hise subsequently appointed a new treasurer of the committee, and an internal review showed all expenses paid were proper, and the committee had understated the amount of mileage expense due to Hise.
The committee sent State Board of Elections Executive Director Kim Strach a detailed letter June 1, 2017, responding to each of the five items in the complaint and explaining it was preparing amended 2013-2016 reports to correct defects identified in the complaint or by the State Board staff in its review of the committee’s reports, according to Hise’s statement. The committee sent the State Board staff amended 2013-2016 disclosure reports June 28, 2017, that corrected all of the accounting and reporting errors identified by the State Board and by the complaint and the committee did not hear back from the State Board for a year, Hise said.
The State Board staff contacted the committee this past July to discuss the amended reports sent to them the previous year. The committee’s treasurer and legal counsel met with Strach and three other State Board staff members July 21 for three hours to answer all questions the State Board staff had about the committee’s report, Hise said. The committee sent the State Board staff another detailed letter Aug. 24 responding further to the complaint and other questions posed by the State Board staff, Hise said. Hise said he and the former committee treasurer, Shirley Hise, voluntarily submitted affidavits dated Aug 21 stating under oath all unreimbursed expense payments made to Hise were justified.
Hise met with Strach and State Board attorney John Bruce for two hours Nov. 14 to answer any questions they had about the committee’s payment of expenses or other issues, Hise said.
“While the committee’s 2013-2016 reports were found to contain some accounting and reporting errors, the evidence shows that none of the errors were willful,” according to Hise’s statement. “In addition, all expenses paid by the committee to Sen. Hise were legitimate campaign expenses, and the committee has corrected the defects found in reporting mileage and other unreimbursed expenses. There was no need for further investigation.”