- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 4, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Two ethics complaints filed against Gov. Pat McCrory earlier this year have been thrown out by the North Carolina State Ethics Commission.

One of the complaints lodged in January by the group Progress North Carolina Action said McCrory should have included on his economic disclosure statement cash and stock he received from online mortgage broker LendingTree from when he served on its board. The other complaint, filed in March, centered on trips he took that were paid for through the Republican Governors Association.

Progress North Carolina Action released last month’s dismissal documents Wednesday after McCrory announced the decision. State law doesn’t allow the ethics commission to publicly release its decisions.

The dismissal notices, dated Oct. 14 and signed by commission Executive Director Perry Newson, said the commission didn’t find probable cause that McCrory violated the State Government Ethics Act or other laws overseen by the panel.

The appointed commission heard the complaint, McCrory’s response and the results of the investigation by the commission’s staff on two occasions last month, according to the notices.

McCrory, a Republican, said the dismissals prove that the complaints were nearly 600 pages of “frivolous documents making malicious and unfounded attacks.” He has said several liberal-leaning organizations have been out to destroy him politically since he took office in 2013.

“This was never about ethics. It was about politics. For these groups, nothing is off-limits as long as they believe it will further their clearly stated goal of ‘eviscerating’ me,” the governor said in a statement.

Progress North Carolina Action Executive Director Gerrick Brenner, who signed the complaints, criticized the decision, saying it “makes a mockery of the state’s ethics law and the Ethics Commission itself.”

The January complaint came after The Associated Press reported that McCrory received more than $185,000 in cash and stock from LendingTree in early 2013. The amount included $14,438 in fees and cash dividends.

State ethics forms direct officials to disclose sources of stock dividends and fees exceeding $5,000, but McCrory’s staff says the governor wasn’t required to disclose his cash compensation from LendingTree.

The governor didn’t disclose a “business association” with LendingTree, even though he remained on the board for nearly a month after his swearing in. A spokesman for McCrory has said the wording of the question was unclear. The January complaint also questioned McCrory’s ownership of stock in Duke Energy, where he worked for 29 years.

McCrory later amended his economic statement with the State Ethics Commission to disclose more than $13,000 he received during 2013 for seven trips with the Republican Governors Association and two other gubernatorial associations.

The eight commission members are appointed by the governor and by the legislature, on recommendations of the House speaker and Senate leader. The chairman is a McCrory appointee. State law prevents any party from having a majority of the eight seats.

State law also prohibits the commission from releasing information about any complaint unless the person who is the subject of the complaint asks in writing that case documents be released.

Brenner said McCrory should release his written response to the complaints. McCrory’s office hadn’t said by late Wednesday whether McCrory had asked the commission to disclose documents.

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