Tuesday, March 04, 2008

RALEIGH -- Race once again took center stage at Representative Thomas Wright's legislative ethics hearing.

The hearing could result in his removal from public office. It stems from felony fraud and obstruction of justice charges Wright faces in criminal court.
His attorneys believe he's being treated differently because he's black.

Wright's attorneys targeted the ethics committee chairman, asking him to step down from his position. They are upset that an ethics complaint against a white lawmaker was dropped while Wright's case is moving forward.

"It will be something talked about for years," Wright's attorney Doug Harris said. "People will say look what they did to that black man who got into a position of power from New Hanover County. Look at what they did to him and how nothing happened to his counterpart who is white."

Attorneys representing the state argue that wright faces criminal charges while the other lawmaker did not.

"All this is is a bold allegation about race without any facts to support it," William Hart from the NC Attorney General's office said.

After listening to arguments the committee chairman sent a strong message to Representative Wright and his attorneys.

"I find in this case of this motion was patently without a good faith basis in law and fact and is in my opinion below the indignity of those who raise it," Committee chairman Rep. Rick Glazier (D-Cumberland) said. "I deny the motion as frivolous, groundless, and meritless.

Wright's accused of misusing more than $350,000 in campaign donations, charitable donations, and loans. Wright maintains it was sloppy bookkeeping.

This committee must decide to take no further action or recommend removing wright from public office. The hearing could go into Thursday.

Wright's criminal trial is now scheduled for March 31st. He has filed for re-election and faces two opponents in the Democratic primary.

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