Former Gov. Mike Easley is not working at the law firm that last year hired him and two close aides.
At least, for now.
A spokesman for the McGuireWoods law firm, which is based in Richmond, Va., and has an office in Raleigh, said in an interview that Easley has taken a leave of absence.
William Allcott, a lawyer with the firm, said that Easley, a Democrat who was governor from 2001 to 2009, went to the firm's leaders several weeks ago and requested that he go on leave.
"We were supportive," Allcott said.
State and federal authorities have been probing a range of issues that surround Easley. The state Board of Elections found last year that Easley's campaign broke elections laws, and referred other matters to criminal prosecutors. Easley has since hired a prominent criminal defense lawyer, Joseph Cheshire of Raleigh. Several people close to Easley have made appearances before a federal grand jury. (This portion of the post has been updated since the original to reflect findings against the Easley campaign, not Easley personally.)
Cheshire's firm said it had no comment on Easley's leave.
There is no timetable for Easley's return to McGuireWoods, Allcott said.
Allcott would not provide any information about what led to the leave request.
The law firm, which also has a lobbying arm, has completely removed a Web page that had contact information for Easley.
"While he's on leave, there's just not a reason for clients to be in contact," he said.
When Easley joined the firm in April 2009, he brought along his senior assistant for governmental affairs, Franklin Freeman, and executive counsel, Ruffin Poole.
Poole recently pleaded guilty to a tax evasion charge as part of the federal probe that involved Easley. Poole is required to cooperate with prosecutors as part of his plea deal.