People are talking about the speaker.
In an alienation of affection lawsuit filed Sunday, former Apex Town Council member Scott Lassiter alleges that state House Speaker Tim Moore broke up his marriage by enticing his wife into an affair.
The lawsuit says that the relationship went on for more than three years and Lassiter’s wife, Jamie Liles Lassiter, feared that breaking it off could cost her her job as executive director of the North Carolina Conference of Clerks of Superior Court.
In an interview with Charlotte television station WBTV on Tuesday, Moore acknowledged that he had a sexual relationship with Liles Lassiter, “but I thought it was appropriate because she was separated and I was divorced.”
Liles Lassiter issued a statement saying there was no affection for her husband to be alienated from. She said she has long been separated from her husband and that the lawsuit was a vindictive act by an estranged spouse.
But Lassiter’s attorney, Alicia Jurney, told the News & Observer that the Lassiters had not separated until January 11, 2023. and “no separation agreement has been signed.”
Normally, we would be inclined to let this case, no matter how rampant the gossip and Twitter posts, remain a private concern. But the lawsuit makes claims that may spill beyond Moore’s private life into his role as a public official. Lassiter, who like Moore is a Republican, alleges that the House speaker used his position to draw Liles Lassiter into a sexual relationship.
The lawsuit says Liles Lassiter “had engaged in sexual activity with Defendant Tim Moore (including group sex with other individuals seeking Defendant Tim Moore’s political favor), and that she feared ending the relationship with Defendant Tim Moore would result in losing her job.”
In what amounts to an understatement given such claims, the lawsuit says, “This was more than the ordinary dalliance of an unfaithful spouse and an unscrupulous paramour.”
In her role with the Conference of Clerks of Superior Court, Liles Lassiter works in the judicial branch under the Administrative Office of the Courts, but her work did involve lobbying on legislation that would affect court operations. The speaker, who has control over the movement and fate of legislation, could be a powerful ally or obstacle for a lobbyist.
The lawsuit’s claim that others were involved with Moore in hopes of gaining his favor raises questions about who those people might be and what ties they might have to state jobs or legislation.
In the WBTV interview, Moore denied that others were involved. “All the salacious stuff that other people are talking about is absolutely 100 percent false,” he said.
Finally, there are claims about an individual who came to Lassiter’s Cary home to set up a surveillance camera hidden in a tree. If true, that activity could have broken the law.
The lawsuit is deeply embarrassing for Moore and Liles Lassiter, but so far there’s no evidence that Moore abused his office.
Nonetheless, this lawsuit and its explosive claims are being brought against one of the state’s most powerful public officials by a member of his own party who previously held public office. Lassiter, an assistant principal with Wake County Public Schools, is making claims that challenge Moore’s integrity as a public official.
Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman may be reluctant to delve into a bitter marital dispute, but she shouldn’t ignore it as only that. Freeman should have a conversation with Lassiter
Senate leader Phil Berger, a Rockingham County Republican, sounds less than enthusiastic about defending Moore. He told WRAL-TV that he supports the anachronistic alienation of affection law that allows spouses to sue for damages over an affair. The law exists in only six states, but Berger said it is worth keeping because it protects the sanctity of marriage.
Berger said he has not spoken with his House counterpart. “I know what I’ve read,” he said, “and that’s all I know. He says that he will fight it vigorously and he’ll be vindicated. We have a legal process that will need to work its way.”
Yes, it should work its way through the legal process, including a district attorney’s review of Lassiter’s allegations.