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Ethics battle rages as Election Day approaches

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State Auditor Les Merritt has released a preliminary report concluding that the State Ethics Commission is “hiding facts from the public” regarding its termination of commission office assistant Amanda Thaxton and a related investigation into whether it gave Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue preferential treatment.

Thaxton filed a whistle-blower lawsuit after being fired when she alleged that the commission failed to follow proper procedures during a review of Perdue’s financial disclosure forms.

Ethics Commission Chairman Robert Farmer lambasted Merritt for releasing the report before the Superior Court rules on the commission’s lawsuit, which seeks to bar Merritt, a Republican, from the investigation due to conflicts of interest in his office. Farmer called Merritt’s report a “sham” and a pretext for accessing confidential files.

The auditor’s office disagreed. “Everyone is subject to audit by the auditor,” Pressly Millen, an attorney in Merritt’s office, told the Associated Press. The final word goes to the Superior Court.

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