State Sen. Hartsell, of Cabarrus, indicted on campaign finance charges

Published 3:55 pm Tuesday, June 28, 2016

By Jonathan Drew

Associated Press

RALEIGH (AP) — A longtime North Carolina state senator misused campaign contributions and falsely labeled the spending as expenses and charitable donations on finance reports, according to an indictment issued Tuesday.

Republican Sen. Fletcher Hartsell of Concord, the longest-serving current member of the state Senate, was indicted on three felony counts of filing false campaign finance reports. While the indictment doesn’t specify the nature of the spending, state investigators have been looking into his spending on his haircuts and the upkeep of antique Studebakers.

Hartsell says he has no plans to resign but declined to comment further Tuesday evening.

The Wake County grand jury indictment accuses the 69-year-old lawmaker of using money from campaign accounts for his financial benefit — including paying for credit cards — and falsely labeling it as charitable donations or reimbursement for expenses related to his campaign or legislative office from 2010 to 2013.

A jail website showed that Hartsell had been in custody Tuesday. Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said in an email he was being processed and his bond was being set.

A defense attorney for Hartsell didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment. A message left at Hartsell’s legislative office wasn’t immediately returned.

The criminal charges follow a lengthy investigation by North Carolina elections officials, who turned their findings over to prosecutors last summer.

State Board of Elections officials said then that Hartsell owned two antique Studebaker autos and three other cars and claimed gas and maintenance costs for all of them against his campaign account because he might drive any of them to Raleigh. Board officials said he also charged his campaign for other questionable expenses such as haircuts.

Hartsell joined the Senate in 1991. He has leadership roles on a Senate judiciary committee and the tax-writing committee. He has served as chairman of the Legislative Ethics Committee.

He is serving his 13th term this year but not seeking re-election in the fall.