Hise hearing set, then postponed

Request to delay granted because investigation is ongoing

RALEIGH – The North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement has delayed a hearing about a complaint involving state Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell.

A hearing initially scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 17, in Raleigh about alleged campaign finance violations by Hise has been delayed after the station WBTV questioned whether the investigation into the allegations against Hise was complete. 

Hise has been under investigation since March 2017 after complaints were filed alleging the senator used roughly $10,000 from his campaign account for personal use. The board announced a few weeks ago it would consider the complaint against Hise at its Wednesday, Oct. 17, meeting.

Hise’s attorney originally requested the hearing be postponed because Hise’s mother, Shirley Hise, who served as his campaign treasurer during the period under investigation by the board, was hospitalized, is undergoing cancer treatment and could not attend the hearing.

NC Board of Elections Chair Andy Penry wrote a letter in response, saying he would place the request for a delay on the agenda for the board to consider before Hise’s hearing but the senator should be prepared to present his case, according to WBTV.

Documents obtained by WBTV show the NCSBE’s investigation into Hise’s campaign is not complete, and according to an email to John Lewis, a Republican member of the State Board of Elections, NCSBE staff were conducting interviews for the case as recently as this past week, according to WBTV.

“Staff does not consider the investigation to be complete. Three team members, including (Board of Elections and Ethics) Director (Kim) Strach, spent Wednesday, Oct. 10, in Spruce Pine interviewing two CPAs who worked with Ms. Hise on the campaign reports,” a staff attorney wrote to Lewis in response to his inquiry. “Those interviews for the first time suggested the existence of QuickBooks files that we are now obtaining, and a different explanation for part of the loan balance (owed to Sen. Hise) that the Committee carried during the relevant time period. We need to follow up on this new information,” according to the email as reported by WBTV.

The email noted the Hise matter had been added to the board’s October agenda at the direction of Penry, the NCSBE chairman, and said the staff supported delaying the hearing.

An amended hearing notice disseminated Sunday, Oct. 14, did not include the Hise matter.

Penry told WBTV he wanted to hear the Hise case, along with several other outstanding cases, at the October meeting because of the length of time it had been pending.

Penry then told the TV station Hise’s case would likely be moved to a later date to be sure the board’s staff is fully prepared to present the matter, according to WBTV.  

Hise’s Democratic challenger in the upcoming election, David Wheeler, of Spruce Pine, issued a statement Monday, Oct. 15, about the decision to delay the hearing.

“Hise is so desperate, he made three political maneuvers over the past three days to delay his hearing scheduled for (Wednesday, Oct. 17),” Wheeler said. The first two delay tactics did not work but his final attempt was successful. I believe it is because Ralph is hiding something, fears jail or knows his political future is in doubt. I’m demanding that Ralph Hise release a full statement and all the documents in this matter. If Hise isn’t guilty, he should tell us.”

Hise issued a statement to the News-Journal Monday.

“Mr. Wheeler is part of the left-wing mob that tried to sabotage Justice Kavanaugh and believes Republicans are guilty until proven innocent,” Hise said. “I’m confident this frivolous complaint, filed by left-wing activists, will be dismissed and I’m confident my liberal opponent will be dismissed by the voters on Nov. 6.”

The MItchell News

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