Update: 3:15 p.m. — A press release from State Senator Michael Lee presented letters from Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo and New Hanover County Commission Chairman Woody White.
Both letters refuted the ethics complaint made by William Shell.
Saffo’s letter, which Lee read from during his press conference, stated in part, “Let me reiterate, Michael Lee has never pressured me to vote in any particular way. While at times Senator Lee and I have had policy disagreements, I can say that it has been my experience that he has kept his position in the legal community and his role in the North Carolina General Assembly separate.”
NEW HANOVER COUNTY — After an ethics complaint was filed against Senator Michael Lee, running for re-election in New Hanover County’s District 9, the incumbent held a press conference to deny allegations about his use of public office for private gain.
Lee’s conference, which lasted all of 10 minutes, focused on criticisms of the press, in particular for not questioning the ethics of the man who filed the complaint, and for avoiding critical coverage of his political opponent, Democrat candidate Harper Peterson.
News of the ethics complaint was released yesterday, just one week before the election. Lee called the claims, and the timing, a “stunt.”
The complaint — filed by former New Hanover County Republican Chairman William Shell and recently fired Wilmington Star-News freelancer Terry Reilly — alleges Lee imposed undue influence over local boards as a private lawyer representing several out-of-town developers.
“The complaint is filled with false statements and alleges this grand conspiracy between the Wilmington City Council, the Wrightsville Beach Board of Alderman, the County Commission and all the people on the appointed boards and commissions that hear matters,” Lee said. “It accuses virtually every local elected and appointed official — Democrat, Republican, Unaffiliated– of violating the law.”
Lee brought up the disciplinary action by the North Carolina Bar Association against Shell for failing to attend a hearing in 1996 and lying to a client, Lee criticized the press for not including that information in coverage of the complaint.
Lee also criticized the press for not running stories on allegations that Peterson has faced or is currently facing tax problems, or on what Lee described as Peterson’s “horrible” single term as Wilmington’s mayor.
Read Lee’s full prepared statement below:
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