Bribery indictments handed down related to Manteo dredge project

Published 1:53 pm Wednesday, February 19, 2020

A Grand Jury in Dare County has handed down a felony bribery indictment against a former Manteo commissioner and a former Manteo mayor. The indictments allege the men exchanged money for influence over the verbal lease of property identified as the “Klimkiewiez Property” that was used as a dredge spoil transfer site during the Doughs Creek dredge project that began in 2017.

The indictments come on the heels of a NC State Auditor’s report released in December that found a town commissioner derived direct benefit of $12,500 from a contract related to the Doughs Creek Canal dredging project. The finding was referred to the District Attorney for the First Prosecutorial District to determine if there was sufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges.

The indictment found probable cause that Wayland Hannon Fry Jr. of Manteo should face a charge of bribery of officials. Fry was a sitting Manteo commissioner at the time of the alleged bribery. A separate indictment found cause that Lee King Tugwell of Manteo should face one count of offering bribes. Tugwell, the former Manteo mayor, was not an elected or appointed official at the time of the alleged crime.

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The Grand Jury indictment alleges that Fry “unlawfully, willfully and feloniously did while holding the office of Commissioner, Town of Manteo Board of Commissioners, an office under the laws of this state, receive and consent to receive money, not in payment of his legal salary, fees or perquisites, directly from Lee K. Tugwell and Tugwell Transport, Inc., with the understanding that he was to be influenced thereby and would perform an official act, in that he voted to amend the Town budget to cause the Town of Manteo to pay $50,000 from Town funds, for a Third Party Observer/Lease of Klimkiewiez property as part of a dredging project. This official act lay within the scope of the defendant’s official authority and was connected with the discharge of the defendant’s official and legal duties.”

The indictment delivered against Tugwell alleges he “unlawfully, willfully and feloniously did with a corrupt intent offer money, not in payment of his legal salary, fees or perquisites, as a bribe, to Wayland Hannon Fry, a Commissioner, Town of Manteo Board of Commissioners, an office under the law of this state, knowing him to be a commissioner, Town of Manteo Board of Commissioners, with the understanding that he was to be influenced thereby and would perform an official act in that he would vote to amend the Town Budget to cause the Town of Manteo to pay $50,000 from Town funds, for a Third Party Observer/Lease of Klimkiewiez property as part of a dredging project. This official act lay within the scope of the official authority of Wayland Hannon Fry, as a Commissioner, Town of Manteo Board of Commissioners and was connected with the discharge of his official and legal duties.”

When reached for comment, Fry and Tugwell both said under the advice of their attorneys they couldn’t comment. Previously, according to the state audit report, Tugwell told investigators that the $12,500 payment from his corporation to Fry was a “gift.”

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