Perdue was subject of 1996 corruption probe
RALEIGH (WTVD) -- The ABC11 I-Team has received documents through the Freedom of Information Act that reveal new details about a 15-year-old federal investigation of Governor Beverly Perdue.
The FBI file shows she was the focus of a political corruption probe while a powerful state senator in the North Carolina General Assembly.
The report looks at a car accident involving Perdue on July 4, 1995 and how Perdue and the North Carolina Highway Patrol handled it. It also examines promotions she got for certain Highway Patrol officers in the wake of the accident. Perdue would later pick one of them to lead the patrol when she became governor.
The FBI investigated allegations of abuse of power and whether Perdue "may have violated the federal mail fraud statute in connection with an insurance claim she submitted to State Farm insurance Company," says the report. The investigation was later closed without any charges being filed.
At the time the report was written, Perdue represented Craven County (New Bern) in the legislature and was vice-chairperson of the Senate Appropriations and Transportation committees and chairperson of the Educational Background/Higher Educational Background Committee.
According to the FBI file, on the evening of July 4, 1995, Perdue was among a group of senators having dinner and drinks at Cappers Restaurant and Tavern in North Hills. She left at about 10:30 p.m. and was driving along Lassiter Mill Road heading toward downtown Raleigh when she wrecked her Cadillac STS, causing about $3,000 worth of damage.
FBI investigators said Perdue told them she was using her cell phone at the time of the wreck "trying to contact her children," and she "dropped the phone on the passenger side of the vehicle and leaned over to pick it up. During this action, Perdue hit something on the right-hand side," according to the report.
The FBI later asked workers at Cappers how much Perdue may have had to drink that night.
"None of the senators appeared intoxicated. No one even close to being intoxicated," one told investigators.
But the documents state that, instead of calling 911, Perdue called the Highway Patrol and asked for a person the report identifies as a "friend." The person's name is redacted.
"Perdue was aware that the NCSHP would help a Legislator who was having car trouble," reads the report.
But when she couldn't get in touch with her "friend," the report says Perdue called Cadillac Roadside Assistance for a tow, and then took a cab back to the Brownstone Hotel and Conference Center where she soon called a "confidant" in New Bern who "informed Perdue that she must go back out to the scene of the accident and make sure no one was hurt or that no property was damaged."
The FBI report says Perdue then returned to Lassiter Mill Road with a female friend and "did not notice any damage."
The next day at the General Assembly, the report says a fellow senator advised Perdue that they "believed if damage exceeded $500, a police report may need to be filed."
Perdue told the FBI she then saw a highway patrolman in the hall and said "she may need to file a police report."
At the time, Perdue was the vice-chair of the appropriations committee that made funding decisions about the Highway Patrol, and it's clear from the FBI report that investigators were closely focused on Perdue's connections to the agency.
The investigation describes Perdue as a "very powerful politician," and says "Senator Perdue has enjoyed a very long-standing and close professional and personal relationship with members of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol. This relationship with members of the NCSHP is at the heart of the allegation of this investigation."
The documents go on to say the Highway Patrol investigator only filled out a "short" accident form "and does so without conducting any further investigation, does not interview Senator Perdue, nor does he go to the Cadillac dealership and observe the damage."
Only later, six weeks after launching an internal affairs investigation of the accident and interviewing Perdue, does the patrol file a more complete "long form" report.
It's the next move by Perdue that eventually becomes the focus of the FBI.
In late October 1995, according to the report, two months after the Highway Patrol's internal affairs investigation, Perdue presses the head of Crime Control and Public Safety - Brad Wilson - to promote three patrolmen after a promotion review panel had already made its decision.
Wilson is "advised by Senator Perdue that she wants some additional NCSHP promotions to be made that were not on the list that had been sent by the (promotion review) panel to the Governor," reads the report.
One was promoted to lieutenant and transferred to Internal Affairs - the very department that investigated Perdue's car wreck just weeks earlier.
"This position in Internal Affairs was created to accommodate Senator Perdue's demands," says the FBI file.
The "promotions were in violation of a North Carolina statute that specifically limits the number of supervisory positions," says the file and "The promotions demanded by Senator Perdue caused the NCSHP to knowingly violate this statute."
The report goes on to say that Brad Wilson "had heard that Senator Perdue's real purpose for wanting these promotions was to get (name redacted) transferred to New Bern for her own personal reasons."
The document also shows the person was promoted to "First Sergeant and transferred to New Bern from Morehead City."
According to personnel records and promotions lists examined by the ABC11 I-Team, Randy Glover was the one transferred to New Bern in 1995. He was promoted and given a nearly 25 percent raise.
Perdue was sworn in as governor in January 2009. In June, she announced she was promoting Glover to lead the Highway Patrol after Colonel Walter J. Wilson, Jr. announced his retirement.
But Glover was soon under fire when embarrassing problems inside the agency continued on his watch. There were calls for a change of leadership after the resignation of a major and continued scandals involving inappropriate sex, K-9 abuse, and drunk driving.
In July 2010, while addressing problems within the Highway Patrol, reporters asked Perdue about her relationship with Glover and if she used her influence to move him up the chain of command when she was a senator. She denied any conflict of interest.
"Randy Glover has never asked me for a thing, never asked me for a thing," she responded. "I've never intervened in promotions."
A spokesperson quickly whisked her away from the news conference.
But, nine days later, Perdue changed her story in a statement.
"I have offered many recommendations on which men and women deserved recognition at agencies throughout state government, including Randy Glover and other qualified troopers at the Highway Patrol," she said.
ABC11 spoke with Glover about the information in the FBI file. He told us he had no knowledge of any phone calls made on his behalf when he was promoted in 1995. He said he was told the process was "above board."
We asked why Perdue would have wanted him promoted for "personal reasons" as described in the report.
"I can't answer that," Glover responded.
Glover said he and Perdue have been "friends for years" and they've always had a "professional relationship." But he also said that in the 1990s, at the time of his promotion, "he seldom talked to her."
ABC11 took the FBI file to Frank Perry who retired from the FBI in 2005 and is now with the Foundation for Ethics in Public Service.
He told us he thinks the misconduct we've seen in the Highway Patrol recently is a result of politicians having too much influence in the agency and the only way to fix it is to end the political patronage.
"Political patronage produces fear and favor. It reduces morality and morale within the agency," said Perry. "People will come to believe that promotions are based not so much on merit, but on political ties."
The FBI file shows the investigation was eventually turned over to a special grand jury in Raleigh. The report says a federal prosecutor "advised that Senator Perdue's actions may constitute a violation of federal law."
"It appears that the complainant is quite credible and a person who had inside knowledge about the allegations of abuse of power and indeed fraud by wire," Perry told ABC11. "I think it was a significant case."
But then, in October 1998, after a nearly three-year federal investigation, a short memo appears in the FBI file:
"It is recommended that this case be placed in a closed status," it says.
A source close to the investigation told ABC11 there was not enough evidence to indict Perdue.
We asked Perry if that shows she was cleared and did nothing wrong.
"That simply means that there's not sufficient evidence to proceed," he responded.
So why is an old FBI file news today? Some say it raises serious questions of a conflict of interest with an embattled Highway Patrol that Perdue has vowed to fix. We put that directly to the governor.
Governor Perdue would not make herself available to discuss the FBI report. Instead, her campaign consultant Marc Farinella provided the following statement:
"The news media and Governor Perdue’s political opponents have been recycling this story for more than a decade, but nothing has changed: The investigative grand jury found no wrong-doing and the file was closed. Governor Perdue recognizes the crucial role of the media in holding elected officials accountable for their actions, and she strongly supports those efforts. But revisiting this matter yet again after it was put to rest well over a decade ago really seems to serve no constructive purpose."
Farinella also made other points on the governor's behalf.
He said Perdue was not aware at the time of her crash that a single vehicle accident in which no one was injured had to be reported to law enforcement.
He also said Governor Perdue has indeed had a strong and constructive relationship with the state’s highway patrol and has often fought for increased resources and statutory changes that improve public safety. But with regard to Glover, she does not know why the report, written more than a decade ago, cites "personal reasons" for wanting his transfer or what was meant by that.
bev perdue, abc11 investigates, steve daniels
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