08/01/12 — District 10 GOP won't replace LaRoque

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District 10 GOP won't replace LaRoque

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 1, 2012 1:46 PM

Stephen LaRoque

State House District 10 Republican Party officials have indicated they will not seek a replacement to fill the state House seat left vacant by Rep. Stephen LaRoque, whose resignation from office becomes effective today.

LaRoque's resignation comes two weeks to the day that he was indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly stealing from programs receiving federal funds and engaging in monetary transactions involving property obtained from "certain specified unlawful activity."

An official with the office of LaRoque's attorney, Joe Cheshire of Raleigh, said that neither had any further comment at this time.

Wayne GOP Chairman Bob Jackson Tuesday said he had spoken with Lenoir County party officials and that the feeling was there was no need to name a replacement since the General Assembly is not in session, and probably will not require a special session before the start of the new one next year.

Jackson said he had not yet spoken with any party officials in Greene County.

District 10 includes portions of all three counties.

Under state law a replacement may be recommended by the district's state House committee of the political party the outgoing legislator was affiliated with when elected.

The actual appointment is made by the governor, who has seven days to approve the party's recommendation. According to the law, if the governor fails to make the appointment within the seven days it "shall be presumed" it has been made.

An initial consideration was recommending John Bell IV of Goldsboro, who defeated LaRoque in the May Republican primary. However, the current session representatives are based on the old district lines that have since been changed by redistricting, Jackson said.

"So he (Bell) would not be in the old district," Jackson said.

LaRoque announced his resignation in a letter to House Speaker Thom Tillis and used the letter to again deny the allegations while pledging to devote his time to proving his innocence.

Prior to the resignation, Tillis said he planned to form a bipartisan committee of House members to study the indictment.

First elected in November 2002, LaRoque served as the District 10 representative until 2006 when he lost his re-election bid. He was re-elected in 2010. LaRoque lost to Bell in the May primary.

LaRoque has been charged with illegally using federal money intended for low-interest economic development loans through his nonprofit East Carolina Development Company. According to the indictment, LaRoque used the money to purchase expensive jewelry, including Faberge eggs and an ice rink for his wife, as well as a house that he rented to a stepdaughter.

The maximum penalty for each of the eight counts is up to 10 years imprisonment.

It also alleges that he failed to report his income to the IRS including a $150,000 loan he said was deferred compensation.

LaRoque's resignation letter reads:

"I am submitting today my resignation from the North Carolina House of Representatives effective August 1, 2012. This is a difficult decision as it has been one of the greatest honors of my life to have had the privilege of representing the people of the 10th District, and I am very proud of what we have accomplished together. I do not want my continued presence in the General Assembly to be politicized or to distract from the important work that still needs to be done there. I also have made it clear that I am proud of the work I have done in my non-profit corporations. We have worked hard to help people. I deny the charges brought against me, and I now must devote my time and energies to proving my innocence and protecting my family and all that I have worked for and believe in."