RALEIGH — State Rep. Deb McManus, a first-term Democrat and former longtime member of the Chatham County school board, was arrested on felony tax charges Wednesday.
McManus, 56, of Siler City resigned from her House seat several hours after posting a $150,000 bond so she could be released from the Wake County jail, where she had been booked on the charges.
She was charged with three counts of embezzlement of state money related to more than $47,000 in state individual income tax withheld between January 2011 and July of this year at her husband’s medical office, Carolina Family Practice in Siler City.
“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 that has arisen,” McManus wrote in a letter delivered to House Speaker Thom Tillis’ office.
Her attorney, Elliot Abrams of the prominent Cheshire, Parker law firm in Raleigh, issued a statement Wednesday evening saying the charges had nothing to do with her position in the General Assembly. He said she resigned so that she could focus on the case without it becoming politicized.
“Ms. McManus has served the people of Chatham County and the 54th District tirelessly and with great distinction for 11 years,” Abrams said. “The sadness she feels today cannot be measured.”
Abrams said McManus had been working with a state Department of Revenue law enforcement agent for the past several months and was surprised that criminal charges were filed. Abrams said he would be talking to the state attorney general’s office about the case.
The Department of Revenue issued a news release earlier in the afternoon announcing the charges. Arrest warrants allege that as the bookkeeper for her husband’s medical practice, she “aided and abetted the corporation to embezzle, misapply and convert to its own use” the tax money in question.
Her husband, Dr. Keith McManus, was not charged. The McManuses are a prominent couple in Siler City, where he has been in practice for more than 20 years. He is team physician for Jordan-Matthews High School, among other involvements, according to the practice’s website.
McManus was elected to the newly redrawn 54th District in November 2012. The district includes parts of Chatham and Lee counties, and included portions of former House Minority Leader Joe Hackney’s district.
Democratic party officials in that region will select a replacement to fill out her term, which ends after 2014.
McManus may have hoped her resignation would avoid politicizing the allegations, but the state Republican Party wasted little time in doing so.
“During the last two elections, North Carolinians have sent a very clear message that they will not accept the corruption, abuse of power, and hypocrisy of Democrats in Raleigh any longer,” said North Carolina Republican Chairman Claude Pope. “There is an emerging trend of prominent Democrat leaders who repeatedly demand that hardworking North Carolinians pay more taxes while they themselves break the law to avoid paying their fair share.”
Pope didn’t offer examples of an emerging trend other than to cite the case of Randy Voller, chairman of the state Democratic Party, who owed nearly $290,000 in unpaid taxes and penalties.
McManus is scheduled to make her first appearance in a Wake County courtroom on Thursday, when she will be formally apprised of the charges against her.
Jarvis: 919-829-4576; Twitter: @CraigJ_NandO