Rep. Deb McManus resigns post

Dec. 11, 2013 @ 06:34 PM

Local Rep. Deb McManus, a Democrat who represents Chatham and Lee counties in the General Assembly, resigned after being arrested Wednesday on felony tax charges.

“It is with deep sadness that I have decided to resign from the House of Representatives effective today in order to focus on a personal matter which has arisen,” she wrote in a letter addressed to N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis. “It has been one of the greatest honors and pleasures of my life to have served the people of the 54th District, and I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish. I will remain forever grateful for the opportunity to serve and for the support I have received throughout my service. Sincerely, Deborah H. McManus.”

McManus, who was in her first term in the legislature after about a decade on the Chatham County Board of Education, turned herself in to the Wake County Magistrate’s Office on Wednesday morning, according to Trevor Johnson, the public information officer for the N.C. Department of Revenue, which conducted the investigation and made the arrest. She was held on $150,000 bond but released later on Wednesday.

The charges are merely allegations at this point, although if McManus had remained in office and were to later be convicted, she would have been removed because convicted felons automatically lose their right to vote and hold elected office. In a press release, the Department of Revenue wrote that McManus is scheduled to make her first appearance today at the Wake County District Court in Raleigh.

“Arrest warrants allege that McManus, as bookkeeper and responsible person of Carolina Family Practice, P.A., aided and abetted the corporation to embezzle, misapply and convert to its own use $47,369 in North Carolina Individual Income Tax withheld during the period January 2011 through July 2013,” the department wrote in the press release announcing her arrest.

McManus didn’t respond to several attempts to contact her but did forward at least one of the messages to her attorney, Elliot Abrams of Cheshire Parker Schneider & Bryan, PLLC in Raleigh.

Abrams provided a written a statement saying the charges “have nothing to do with her position as a member of the North Carolina House of Representatives. Nonetheless, she has submitted her resignation from that position, effective today, so that she can focus on this matter and hopefully prevent the politicization of what is a merely a personal tax issue.

“... As to the charges themselves,” Abrams continued, “[McManus] had been working with the Department of Revenue over the past few months to handle the situation and was surprised by these charges. We will be reviewing the evidence in the case and will be discussing this matter with the Attorney General’s Office.”

McManus’s husband, Dr. Keith McManus, founded the business in question, Carolina Family Practice, in Siler City more than 20 years ago and also teaches at UNC-Chapel Hill’s nursing school and medical school. He sold his practice last month to FirstHealth of the Carolinas, which renamed it FirstHealth Family Medicine, but he still practices there.

When asked Wednesday afternoon if Dr. McManus was willing to speak about the charges, a receptionist said, “We have no comment.”

With Deb McManus stating her resignation was effective immediately, it’s unclear who will take her place in the General Assembly. However, the legislature doesn’t return to Raleigh until May 14, and McManus was not serving on any committees that were meeting in the interim.

Lee County Elections Director Nancy Kimble said she wasn’t sure how empty N.C. House seats would be filled, although she said the state Democratic Party would likely appoint someone to serve the remainder of McManus’ term, which expires in November, 2014.

Leaders from the Lee and Chatham branches of the Democratic Party couldn’t be reached for comment.

Gennie Thurlow, an assistant in McManus’ office at the legislative building in Raleigh, said Wednesday that she hadn’t heard of the charges and that McManus texted her Tuesday night but didn’t mention anything related to the case.