In one of his last public acts as state transportation secretary in the waning days of Gov. Bev Perdue's administration, Gene Conti went to Wilmington on Dec. 8 to preside over a bridge-naming ceremony in honor of Lanny Wilson, a Democratic Party fundraiser who was forced to resign from the state Board of Transportation in 2010 amid state and federal investigations that brought down Perdue's predecessor, former Gov. Mike Easley.
The bridge naming caused a political stir, drawing attacks from Republicans and sour feelings from some Wilmington area folks who believed Wilson did not deserve the honor.
In his remarks putting Wilson's name on the Martin Luther King. Jr. Boulevard bridge over North 23rd Street, Conti said called the bridge-naming "the highest honor N.C. DOT can bestow" and "a fitting tribute to a man who's done so much to improve transportation in this Cape Fear region," according to the Wilmington Star-News.
He didn't stop there, as the Star-News reported:
Conti said he was pleased to be naming a bridge for Wilson despite the controversy that surrounded his leaving office.
"I worked with Lanny for a long time," Conti said. "He's never taken money or done anything wrong, that I know of."
It's true that Wilson was never accused of taking money. He was the man who gave the money. ... [MORE]