NC House Speaker Tim Moore’s legal contract with start-up raises questions
House Speaker Tim Moore has hired a former Wake County district attorney to represent him as he deals with questions about his legal work for a Durham-based pharmaceutical startup and an association that trains bail agents, WBTV reported.
Moore told WBTV that he hired Colon Willoughby, who served as Wake’s top prosecutor for nearly 30 years, after the current district attorney, Lorrin Freeman, launched an inquiry into Moore’s private legal work. Freeman has stressed the inquiry is not a criminal investigation.
“I hired Mr. Willoughby to look into this and what he’s done is actually confirm that I’m not the subject of an investigation,” Moore told WBTV.
A spokesman for Moore declined to comment on WBTV’s report.
In September, The News & Observer reported that Moore had been hired in early 2017 to do legal work for KNOW Bio, a pharmaceutical company spun off from another Triangle-based company, Novan. Neal Hunter, a co-founder and board chairman of KNOW Bio, hired Moore.
Hunter is also a key financial backer of 751 South, a project which will build 1,300 residences and 600,000 square feet of offices and shops on 166 acres near Jordan Lake. The project had stalled after Durham city officials declined to extend water and sewer, but Moore as the powerful Rules Committee chairman introduced state legislation in 2013 that overrode their opposition.
Moore, a Cleveland County Republican who became speaker in 2015, subsequently said that Hunter had paid him $40,000 for the legal work, which focused on exploring federal tax breaks for KNOW Bio. Moore also said he had also worked for Hunter in 2015 in another legal matter, but declined to provide further details.
In both cases, Moore said the legal work was not connected to his legislation that aided 751 South. He said he has always kept his private legal work separate from his public duties as a state lawmaker.
Moore’s work for the North Carolina Bail Agents Association has also drawn questions. He confirmed he was paid $10,000 to represent the association before the state Insurance Department. At the time, the association was trying to prevent a competitor from offering training for bail agents.
Shortly after Moore’s work for the association, legislation surfaced in 2012 that made the association the sole provider of the training. Moore had excused himself from voting on that legislation, which passed the legislature but was later thrown out by state judges who found it unconstitutional.