Former Gov. Mike Easley has offered a new explanation of why his son drove a sport utility vehicle, apparently for several years, that the Easleys did not own.
Easley says the 2000 GMC Yukon owned by a Robeson County dealership was "made available" for use as a campaign vehicle beginning in early 2003, according to documents filed with the State Board of Elections on Friday and Monday by a lawyer for Easley's campaign committee.
The campaign used the SUV in 2003 and 2004 and part of 2005, wrote the lawyer, John Wallace of Wallace & Nordan in Raleigh. From mid-2005 on, the vehicle was used for "personal purposes," he wrote.
But records show that neither Easley nor his campaign made any payments on the Yukon – until this month.
Asked last month about the car, Easley had said in an e-mail message that the vehicle was leased. Easley said on March 27 that the car driven by Mike Easley Jr. "was a lease car and I paid the residual instead of turning it back in since he's on his [own] in a year."
But title, registration and tax records show it was never part of a lease. Instead, the car was owned and insured by Bleecker Olds Buick GMC, a dealership in Red Springs owned by Robert F. Bleecker. The dealership also made all the personal property tax payments on the vehicle in Robeson County.
Candidates in North Carolina are prohibited from taking contributions from businesses, such as the Bleecker dealership. That would include the use of a vehicle without payment.
Asked this month why Easley thought his son's vehicle was part of a lease, Bleecker said he couldn't explain it.
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