August 19, 2013
BOLIVIA - Former District Attorney Rex Gore on Monday avoided felony prosecution by pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of willful neglect to discharge the duties of his office.
Gore entered the plea before Superior Court Judge W. Robert Bell. He received a 60-day suspended jail sentence, fined $5,000 plus court costs, placed on 12 months of supervised probation, and had his law license suspended for six months. The supervised probation will be converted to unsupervised once the fine is paid.
It was a deal Gore said he could live with.
"This resolution is one that I'm agreeable to," Gore said. "You make a decision, you believe it's right, and it turns out not to be right. We're glad to move on and have it over with."
Gore was district attorney in the 13th Judicial District, which includes Bladen, Brunswick and Columbus counties. He hired Elaine Strickland Kelley in May 2005 as his chief assistant in Bladen County.
In May, Kelley entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of misprision of a felony, admitting that she failed to report a crime she knew was being committed.
She was indicted last August on felony charges of conspiracy to obtain property by false pretenses and of obtaining property by false pretenses.
She was accused of filing weekly travel expense reports showing business travel from Elizabethtown to Bolivia, where the district attorney's main offices are located, but "knew these representations to be false."
Gore was indicted on the conspiracy charge, but was not accused of profiting from the crime.
In a written statement, Gore said Monday his decision regarding Kelley's compensation was one he believed to be right in 2005.
"Any mistake made was mine alone," Gore said. "My error should not be used to cast a shadow over the great work that prosecutors and staff in the office of the district attorney have done over the years and continue to do now under new leadership."
Gore said the travel reimbursement for more than 600 miles a week to and from home and work could have been offset by a higher salary.
"However, I believed that the travel expense I approved was more than offset because I was returning to the state all the money I did not use from my allotted salary budget," Gore said. "During Ms. Kelley's tenure in my office I returned thousands of dollars more each year in unspent salary funds than Ms. Kelley received as travel. I received no monetary benefit from my decision."
Continued after raises
Gore said the travel compensation was intended to be temporary, but continued even after Kelley was given pay raises.
"Apparently, I did not communicate that clearly," Gore said. "If I had routinely reviewed the travel expenses during the five-plus years she was employed, I would have recognized the ongoing mistake. I am embarrassed by, and sorry for, my neglect of that duty of supervision. I should have done better."
Kelley agreed to pay $14,190.39 restitution. She also was ordered to serve 12 months of unsupervised probation, with a special condition that her law license be suspended for six months.
Gore was district attorney for 20 years until he lost a re-election bid in 2010.
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