Years ago, the State Board of Elections enjoyed a public image of a humdrum vote counter and ballot inspector. But in the past decade, the board has taken the role of dogged investigator that has helped put crooked politicians behind bars.
There's no telling what, if anything, will emerge from the hearing into the conduct of former Gov. Mike Easley, which began today. (You can watch the hearings live and get updated reports on their progress.)
But one thing is certain, according to political consultant Joe Sinsheimer: The public is guaranteed to get a look behind the curtain at how politics works.
"In every other part of state government, ethics issues are handled in secret," Sinsheimer said. "The State Board of Elections demands people testify publicly, under oath, and under penalty of perjury."
Sinsheimer, who played a role in exposing misconduct by former House Speaker Jim Black, said the elections board has been far more effective and open than other bodies that police public officials, such as the state Ethics Commission.
At times, the public hearings have been dramatic events, producing these bombshells:
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