Commentary: Ex-N.C. Gov. Easley kept fast company

This editorial appeared in The Charlotte Observer.

Gov. Mike Easley usually had good political instincts to lean on during his eight years as governor, but one of his signal failings was coming clean with the public.

That's not exactly news. Easley resisted disclosing how and when he traveled, even on weekend forays to his river home in Southport. And he resisted adopting an open e-mail policy until his final day.

But News & Observer reporter Andrew Curliss has given readers a more intimate view of Easley's penchant for secrecy in his personal dealings, and it paints a troubling picture. Easley and NASCAR magnate Rick Hendrick had a relationship that appears to have benefited both the car dealer and the former governor.

For Easley, there were trips, cars and rubbing shoulders with the giants of NASCAR that make one wonder: What was the governor thinking? Consider:

The governor and a state trooper flew aboard a Hendrick jet to Hendrick's Florida home, yet the State Highway Patrol denied requests until recently for a copy of the trooper's expense record under the state open records law. Easley never disclosed on state ethics forms that he had accepted the March 2008 trip to Florida.

Mary Easley, the former governor's spouse, has been driving a $30,000 Honda Accord that belongs to one of Hendrick's dealerships since a couple of days before Easley left office. The Easleys' son, Michael, has been driving a GMC Yukon SUV that is registered to another car dealership in Robeson County.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Charlotte Observer.