Bridge in Wilmington renamed

Dec. 07, 2012 @ 04:16 PM

WILMINGTON — North Carolina officials are renaming a bridge in Wilmington for a former Board of Transportation member who was a longtime Democratic Party fundraiser.

The ceremony Friday afternoon was to rename the bridge on the Martin Luther King Jr. parkway for Larry Wilson.

Wilson, a lawyer and developer, was a major fundraiser for Gov. Mike Easley, who appointed him to the state board, and for Gov. Bev Perdue. Perdue reappointed Wilson to the board in 2009.

He resigned in 2010 as federal prosecutors were about to release a 51-count indictment against Ruffin Poole, a former aide to Easley. Poole served a one year federal sentence for tax evasion.

Wilson was not charged. But Poole's indictment listed Wilson as a Wilmington financier who was a major player in what it called a "pay-to-play" culture in the Easley administration.

Wilmington City Council passed a resolution asking for the name change to honor Wilson, crediting him with brining state highway funds to the area.

"The parkway was finished during the time he was a board member, after we'd had trouble getting it funded," said Laura Padgett, a Wilmington City Council member.

Senate Republican Leader Phil Berger criticized Perdue's decision to name the bridge for Wilson.

"Perdue is allowing our roads and bridges to bear the namesake of top campaign donors, political cronies, and co-conspirators in the scandals that led to Easley's felony conviction," Berger said Thursday.

Easley was convicted after he left office of a felony related to improper reporting by his campaign of a flight.

"Mr. Wilson was never indicted formally, not accused and not convicted of anything," Padgett said. "Our feeling is, we're recognizing him for what he did for transportation in our area."

Kure Beach Mayor Dean Lambeth also questioned naming the bridge for Wilson.

"It should have went to somebody that didn't have any baggage. He left the board under a cloud. I don't think anybody who leaves under a cloud like that needs anything named for him," Lambeth said.