RALEIGH — Gov. Pat McCrory said Thursday his lawyer goofed on a report declaring the governor sold off his shares in his former employer Duke Energy Inc. last year when he actually sold the stock after a leaky coal ash pond ruptured in February.
That spill spewed toxic sludge that coated the Dan River for 70 miles.
McCrory said his legal counsel misread the instructions on the annual economic disclosure form, but he said he broke no rules and was honest about selling the shares.
“My chief legal counsel feels terrible because he misinterpreted” it, McCrory told reporters at an appearance in Durham.
McCrory filed his second amendment to his required annual economic disclosure statement on Wednesday, clarifying he or his immediate family owned at least $10,000 of stock in Duke Energy Corp. and a spinoff, Spectra Energy Corp., as of Dec. 31. The new filing was first reported Thursday by The News & Observer of Raleigh.
McCrory had refused after the Feb. 2 spill from a Duke Energy coal ash pit to disclose the value of his holdings in the company, where he worked for 29 years. McCrory spokesman Josh Ellis said in May the governor sold all his Duke Energy shares by the time his annual disclosure form was filed in April.
The governor filed an amendment to his April disclosure on May 15 stating that the previous month he mistakenly listed ownership of shares in Spectra Energy, which had been sold.
“I completed the selling of all my energy (stocks) — both Spectra and Duke — right before I submitted that report,” McCrory said. McCrory sold his last shares in both companies between April 9 and April 14, McCrory spokesman Josh Ellis said. The spokesman could not explain why the governor’s statement erroneously listed ownership of more than $10,000 in Spectra Energy shares in his April 15 filing when both they and the Duke Energy shares had been sold by that date.
Spectra Energy was created in 2007 after Duke Energy’s natural gas business was spun off to shareholders. The Houston-based company said earlier this year it was exploring construction of a natural gas pipeline from Pennsylvania to North Carolina in response to requests by Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas Company Inc. Spectra said this week it was suspending development work on the project.
McCrory said his mistake over dates of ownership is commonly seen by the North Carolina Ethics Commission, which collects and reviews the documents.
Ethics Commission Executive Director Perry Newson declined to confirm whether it was common for officials to confuse the dates involving asset ownership, adding he was required to keep information involving ethics advice or complaints confidential. Newson said mistakes on ethics disclosures are common, but he declined to estimate how common.
The economic interest statements warn officials it is a felony to knowingly provide false information on a statement of economic interest and a misdemeanor charge to knowingly conceal or fail to disclose information.
Six months after the third-largest coal ash spill in U.S. history, state legislators have been unable to agree on a law mandating how and when Duke Energy would clean up 33 pits holding the refuse of burned coal. Environmentalists want all the ash dug up and moved to lined landfills away from rivers and lakes. Duke Energy said that would be very expensive. CEO Lynn Good says consumers could be charged for the cleanup.