L’affaire Laroque claims a victim?







It’s official:  Rep. Mark Hilton (R-Conover) will not be seeking reelection to the state House.  The Hickory Daily Record has the story:

State Rep. Mark Hilton, R-96 District, will not seek another term in the legislature.

Hilton’s office announced the decision in an e-mail Tuesday. In it, Hilton said, “Representing the constituents of the 96th District for six terms in the House has been one of the highest honors of my life. But, the time has come for me to spend more time at home with my family, and allow someone else the opportunity to serve the citizens of Catawba County.”

Hilton said he plans to serve out the remainder of his term but plans to stay involved in the county and state Republican Party.

Hilton, 45, told the Record on Tuesday that when deciding to seek office he had to consider the impact his service has on his family.

He said the time he’s had to spend away from his family has been tough on them. He has three children who are 8, 6 and 4 years old, he said.

Hilton said he talked to his wife, Allison, and both felt it was time for him to step away from the legislature. He also said his job as a legislator is part-time and he has to make a living. He’s a police officer and owns Hilton Ventures, LLC.

“I am grateful to my family, friends, and constituents for their support over the past 12 years,” Hilton said.

Hilton said his decision not to seek another term has nothing to do with his connection with embattled state Rep. Stephen LaRoque, R-Lenoir.

LaRoque, from Kinston, is the executive director of East Carolina Development Co. and Piedmont Development Co., which has received more than $8 million through a U.S. Department of Agriculture’s program aimed to combat poverty by loaning money to entrepreneurs.

According to North Carolina Policy Watch, LaRoque has received as much as $195,000 annually as salary and loaned hundreds of thousands of dollars of the USDA program funds to friends and political allies.

Hilton received a $150,000 loan from LaRoque’s Piedmont Development Company in 2007 for a rental property management company, according to NC Policy Watch.

Hilton pointed out Tuesday that LaRoque was not in the legislature when the loan was made. He said he’s paid more than two-thirds of the loan back at 6 percent interest.

“They made money on it,” Hilton said of the loan.

A thought:  If he was tired, and wanted to go home to his family, why couldn’t he have said that LAST WEEK?  Why leave NOW — just two years into your first taste of majority status?  (I think — and some of my Raleigh spies feel the same — that the message was sent down from on high [read: Speaker Thom’s office] that Hilton needed to go home and spend more time with the family.)  The district is a pretty safe one for the GOP.

Another thought: Why is a state legislator  from out west tapping into government money meant for struggling entrepreneurs in poverty-stricken East Carolina? Do you mean to tell us that a sitting legislator cannot get a business loan from a commercial bank?  (Given the state of our government, and the economy, I can see why a bank might be hesitant to loan money to a legislator.)

Even curioser: The Secretary of State’s web site shows that Hilton Ventures has been sent a delinquency notice for failing to file annual reports for “1 or 2 years.”  If you fail to file those reports, your corporate charter can be suspended or revoked.  It’s hard to claim ignorance of the law when you are employed as a police officer and have spent 12 years in the state legislature.

Even more curious:  In a previous HDR story, Hilton said he used the Laroque loan to finance the purchase of 41 mobile homes to use as rental property.  A Catawba County reader of this blog forwarded me a copy of Hilton Ventures’ county tax records, which show only 17 properties in the county under the Hilton Ventures name.