State elections chair questions need to delay Hise hearing

Christine T. Nguyen | The North State Journal
The North Carolina Senate convenes at the N.C. General Assembly.

RALEIGH — As Senator Ralph Hise (R-Madison) faces a hearing on accusations of campaign finance violations from the 2016 elections, his request to delay the proceedings until his mother is released from an Asheville hospital has begged more questions from the state elections board chairman.

Sen. Ralph Hise (R- Madison)

In a letter to Hise’s lawyer dated October 8, 2018, chairman J. Anthony Penry asked for written proof that Hise’s mother, who was also his campaign treasurer during the election in question, is hospitalized due to complications from cancer treatment, and that Hise would be “unfairly prejudiced” if she cannot participate.

The hearing is currently scheduled to start on Wednesday. According to an October 5 letter from Hise’s lawyer, Steven Long, the board is investigating mileage reimbursements charged to his campaign, and those were calculated by Shirley Hise, Senator Hise’s mother in her duties as campaign treasurer.

“Senator Hise cannot make a full and fair presentation to the Board without the testimony of the committee treasurer,“ he wrote.

“This past Tuesday, Ms. Hise was admitted to Mission Hospital…. She is not able to walk and currently has serious health issues that do not allow her to come to Raleigh,” he continued.

Penry, a Democrat, was appointed by Governor Roy Cooper in 2017.  In a response letter, Penry requested written evidence from Shirley Hise’s physician that she cannot participate in the hearings on Wednesday in any way, even by telephone or computer.

The N.C. GOP issued a press release Friday blasting the request calling Penry’s request “an appalling new low” and accusing the Penry of requiring personal medical records to approve the delay.

“This conduct from Chairman Penry is disgraceful,” stated NCGOP Vice-Chairman Michele Nix in Friday’s NCGOP press release. “It’s important to note that this hearing has no bearing on the November election, and Democrat Elections Chairman Andy Penry has chosen to pick on a cancer patient located in the mountains. Chairman Penry knows full well what he’s doing and should be ashamed.”

In his letter, Penry pointed out that the proceedings had been delayed before and said he will put Hise’s request for a delay on the board’s calendar for Wednesday.

“As chair, I am not inclined to delay the entire matter to an unknown date,” he wrote.

He also advised Hise to be prepared to make his defense, should the board deny the request.