New twist in probe of N.C.'s Easley: Travel records destroyed

RALEIGH, N.C. — A state Highway Patrol captain at the center of a mystery involving former Gov. Mike Easley's air travels told a secretary in 2006 to provide him electronic copies of flight records and then delete them, according to an internal patrol report released Friday.

Capt. Alan Melvin's explanation for deleting the governor's records for the previous three years, according to the report, was to "free up space on the computer." But Diane Bumgardner, the secretary who maintained the computer and was told to delete the records, said in an interview that the computer had no space problems.

"I did what I was told to do," Bumgardner said.

Today, those missing records are part of wide-ranging state and federal investigations into perks provided to Easley and his family that include access to vehicles, free plane trips, a good price on a coastal lot and a university job for the former first lady, Mary Easley. The patrol's records have helped show that Easley received free air travel from fundraisers whom he appointed to important positions in state government.

The patrol has been unable to find flight records or records of Easley's activities for 2005, the year after the Democrat was elected to a second term. The internal report sheds some light on how they were handled, but it does not explain why they are missing.

Melvin declined to comment on the report. In the section of the report that includes his interview, he makes no mention of the record deletions, or of what happened to the copies that Bumgardner said he received on a computer disk.

The patrol has located records from 2003 and 2004, two of the years included on the disk, the report says.

Melvin said in the report that when he took over the governor's security unit in 2003, he created the records that detailed Easley's travels so that patrol members would be better organized. Melvin and two patrol sergeants said that paper copies of the travel assignments would be shredded once the assignment was completed. An electronic copy was supposed to be kept on the computer.

North Carolina public records law generally requires state employees to retain paper and electronic records. It is not clear from the report whether any information from the shredded records was maintained electronically.

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