#ncsen: Rhodes unloads new ethics charges against Tillis, criticizes official Raleigh’s handling of previous charges

jr1Former Republican legislator John Rhodes, running as a write-in unaffiliated candidate for US Senate, says voters AND the government need to take a closer look at the ethics of GOP US Senate nominee Thom Tillis.

In a statement released Thursday, Rhodes called for an investigation into allegations that Tillis, the speaker of the NC House, pushed for the state to improve a road (coincidentally?) abutted by real estate owned by some big contributors to Tillis’s Senate campaign:

[…] Next, what I’d like to share are concerns about what could be unethical activities concerning the I-77 toll lanes. As we all know, Speaker Tillis has not only been an advocate of the toll project, but also pushed legislation for the public-private partnership toll lanes. Last month it was reported by WCNC that a group of Tillis campaign contributors stand to make millions from public tax dollars tied to the toll lanes. The report said that ACN executives invested in the prime Cornelius property, known as Augustalee, but they needed one key component to develop the land – a new exit ramp off I-77, which will be Exit 27. WCNC reported that insiders had said that with the new exit, that land could more than double in value – and the property owners could make millions. The funds for the new exit 27 will come from bonus money given to the area for accepting the tolls. As WCNC reported, “Tillis supported the transportation bill with the bonus funds tied to the toll lanes. The Governor signed the bill last year on June 26. On June 27 – the very next day – a group of ACN executives and their wives donated $26,000 to Thom Tillis? senate campaign.”

Then it was reported that on September 13, Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker toured Augustalee since Cornelius town leaders wanted her help for exit 27. According to WCNC, after she indicated there was hope for support, on September 18, five days later, a company called TC Investors donated $25,000 to the superPAC Grow NC Strong which backs Thom Tillis for the US Senate.

It’s this kind of legislative activity that appears to be tied to donations that has led citizens to distrust our government and question what is really motivating Speaker Tillis to push for the toll lanes. On Monday, I plan to file a fifth ethics complaint regarding what appears to be pay-to-play between the Augustalee property owners and Speaker Thom Tillis.

My time in Raleigh taught me that when there is smoke, there is fire. And it seems as though there are special interests stoking the flames. I hope for the sake of the citizens of the Lake Norman area that there will be a more thorough investigation this time around being that it is a 50-year contract we are talking about.[…]

Earlier this year, Rhodes filed complaints alleging pay-to-play tactics by Tillis, the speaker of the NC House. In his , Rhodes raised questions about the level of seriousness applied to his complaints: podium

[…] “John Rhodes filed a complaint with the Committee on April 14, 2014 against Speaker Thom Tillis. The complaint is valid is that it is properly executed and alleges the nature of ethical violations and the time of the occurrence of the unethical acts. The complaint is verified and sworn, subject to persecution for perjury. The sworn complaint is from John Rhodes and addressed to the Committee.”

I don’t know about you, but as a citizen I find this response concerning. The committee almost sounds like the bully Tillis is.

Unfortunately, I learned that the Ethics Committee never contacted the witnesses I had cited in the ethics complaints.

For instance, neither Rep. Robert Brawley or Rep. Larry Pittman were contacted by the ethics committee to testify or asked for a written statement regarding Rep. Tillis’s treatment or interaction pertaining to the ethics complaints.

Based on them not calling key witnesses to get to the bottom of the ethics complaints, there are now more questions than ever, and any reasonable citizen would likely not agree with the findings of the ethics committee.

So, is the legislative ethic’s committee telling us that it is ethical to sell state government to the highest bidder?

Another question this raises is, did Tillis being Speaker of the House influence the Committee’s desire or ability to complete a fair and honest investigation of the facts surrounding the investigation of the ethics complaints.

Perhaps since the ethics committee, who is charged with policing their own and members of the state legislature, cannot provide the public with confidence that they can even call key witnesses to assure us that their members are acting ethically and within the confines of the law, then perhaps its appropriate to release the ethics complaints and allow the public to judge for themselves if Rep.Tillis has acted ethically and in the best interest of the public or not.[…] 

During his time in the legislature, Rhodes gained statewide attention for his efforts to call attention to political corruption in both parties.  He is credited with bringing on the investigation and — later — conviction of then-Speaker Jim Black.