A well-known former banker resigned from the North Carolina State Banking Commission last week under political pressure.
Officials said L. Glenn Orr Jr.'s current work as a bank merger and acquisition consultant raised conflict-of-interest worries.
Mr. Orr is the former chief executive officer of Southern National Corp., which merged with Winston-Salem, N.C.-based BB&T Corp. in 1995. He remains a BB&T director.
His role as a banking commissioner, with responsibility for voting on mergers and acquisitions, came under scrutiny earlier last week. Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker and State Treasurer Harlan Boyles said Mr. Orr's consulting work posed an appearance of a conflict of interest.
Mr. Orr, who was appointed to the commission in 1995, said he informed Mr. Wicker at the time about his consulting role. But the lieutenant governor claimed publicly last week that he was not aware of Mr. Orr's merger advisory work.
"I told him everything I was doing," Mr. Orr said in an interview. "He denies that today. But that is incorrect."
Lt. Gov. Wicker could not be reached for comment.
During Mr. Orr's time on the board, at least a handful of mergers handled by his consulting firm, Orr Management Co., have come before the commission for approval. But Mr. Orr said he abstained from voting on those deals.
Mr. Boyles, the state treasurer, said that there was no evidence Mr. Orr had acted unethically, but that the potential for a conflict existed.
"There is nothing that can be cited that would bear out the suggestion that there was an actual conflict of interest," said Mr. Boyles, who also serves as chairman of the banking commission. But Mr. Orr "does hold himself out to be a consultant in the merger and acquisition business of banks," Mr. Boyles said.
"It is difficult to establish that there is no conflict there."
Mr. Boyles said public awareness about conflicts of interest in governmental matters has been heightened in North Carolina recently. The state's Department of Transportation is being rocked by allegations that certain board members supported road projects that led to personal gain.
"There is lots of controversy over conflicts of interest in the Transportation Department, and the public's interest in this is among the highest in years," said Mr. Boyles.
State officials now plan to require every appointee to file disclosure statements identifying their business interests, said Mr. Boyles.
Mr. Orr said he had not wanted to resign in the third year of his four- year term on the commission. He felt betrayed and used, he said, when Lt. Gov. Wicker, a longtime friend and a recipient of campaign contributions from Mr. Orr, suggested that he resign.
"It's completely politics. The lieutenant governor and the state treasurer, they're both politicians. Instead of supporting me, they took the easy way out," Mr. Orr said.
"I defy anybody to show me one nickel I've made unethically. But I'm not going to become a political football. Let them find somebody else."
Bankers in the state are largely supportive of Mr. Orr. BB&T chief executive officer John A. Allison said he did not believe there was a conflict of interest. And Thad Woodard, president of the North Carolina Bankers Association, characterized Mr. Orr as a "very well-respected, well- known man who has certainly done a lot of good things in his career in banking."