RALEIGH, N.C. — N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis said Tuesday that a second person on his staff has been forced to resign after having an inappropriate relationship with a lobbyist.
Amy Hobbs, a policy adviser to Tillis, confirmed to The Associated Press that she offered her resignation Sunday — three days after chief of staff Charles Thomas resigned when a newspaper questioned him about a relationship with a lobbyist for the state’s residential home building industry.
According to Tillis, the new disclosure came out after he questioned some staff members Sunday about rumors floating around the Legislative Building about them. Tillis wouldn’t immediately identify the adviser but said the person would resign effective by the end of the week.
Tillis told reporters he also would set up policies in his office to make very clear that romantic relationships between staff employees and people such as lobbyists or the appearance of them are inappropriate, even though they may not currently be unlawful or violate state ethics rules.
If such relationships occur, “I’m going to require the resignation of the staff,” Tillis said. “What these people are guilty of is very bad judgment and what I am going to do is to remove any doubt from that in the future” by creating nonfraternization policies, he added.
Hobbs, who was a lobbyist before joining Tillis’ staff when he became speaker in January 2011, said she resigned after learning details of what she called “limited personal contact with lobbyists for all of his staff.”
“Given my background as a former lobbyist, I have many close personal friendships with lobbyists. Close personal relationships and friendships do not rise to the level of an affair,” Hobbs wrote to the AP in an email. “However, I was concerned that I would have difficulty following the office policy and offered my resignation, which was accepted.”
Tillis said the lobbyist involved with the adviser has been working for the Association for Home & Hospice Care of North Carolina and on game-fish issues for another organization. The lobbyist also worked previously on behalf of the gay-rights group Equality North Carolina.
The speaker accepted Thomas’ resignation Thursday after Thomas disclosed he had an intimate relationship with Jessica Hayes, director of political affairs for the North Carolina Home Builders Association. Hayes resigned from her job Friday, an association executive said.
Tillis said he confronted Thomas in January or February about a rumor about a relationship with Hayes. Tillis said he told Thomas that if it was true it would lead to his dismissal.
Thomas, who is married, “denied the relationship,” Tillis said. Tillis said he was disappointed when he learned last week that the relationship had occurred.
The News & Observer of Raleigh reported last week that there were photos, video and eyewitness accounts from a private investigative agency based in Raleigh of Hayes and Thomas showing affection in public places.
Credit: The Associated Press.