Two North Carolina Republican legislators are using state funds as a piggy bank by collecting reimbursements from the state for expenses like housing and travel while at the same time paying themselves back with campaign funds, ethics complaints filed Monday alleges. 

Government watchdog and former executive director of Democracy NC Bob Hall filed complaints against Republican Representatives Josh Dobson and John Torbett Monday with the Legislative Ethics Committee. 

The complaint accuses Dobson, who represents McDowell county and is currently running for Commissioner of Labor, with receiving more than $90,000 in government payments for housing, meals, and travel since 2017 for expenses he never incurred because he used campaign funds to pay for them.

Hall claims Dobson received more than $50,000 for housing expenses from the state while his campaign paid $49,622 to rent and furnish an apartment in Raleigh.  Dobson also received more than $18,000 in gas mileage from the state. During that same period, he charged his champaign $17,091 for “gas,” according to the complaint. 

“You can call what he’s been doing double-dipping or stealing public money or whatever, but it seems clearly unethical and a violation of the law against using your public office for private gain,” Hall said. 

In an email with the INDY Monday, Dobson stating he was audited twice in 2019 by the State Board of Elections with “no outstanding issues,” on the last audit, completed that June. 

“First, this is why a lot of good people don’t run for office. To have your name smeared by a left leaning group 29 days before a statewide election clearly for political gain and in hopes that a headline article might end up on a mailer is sad,” Dobson said. “Second, It’s unfortunate that is where we are in our politics today”

“As I did with the state board of elections, I will comply with any questions or requests that the legislative ethics committee may have,” Dobson told the INDY. 

In a second complaint, Hall claims Torbett received more than $85,000 since 2017, while his campaign committee paid $84,122 for the same expenses, including $65,902 to rent a Raleigh apartment, $10,369 for travel, and $7,851 for “dinner.” 

Torbett, who represents Gaston County, told the INDY via email he was “reviewing,” the complaint.

“Have no comment or response other then I always operate as advised within the law,” Tortbett wrote in an email. 

Hall said he reviewed spending reports for 170 legislators and found fishy funding in the filing for more than a dozen elected officials. But Dobson and Torbett, Hall says, “have by far the worst records among all House members for taking money from taxpayers for expenses they didn’t have.”

“It’s especially disturbing that Dobson and Torbett continued their practice of double-dipping even after the Legislative Ethics Committee sent out clarifying guidelines on May 20, 2020, telling legislators it was unethical and a violation of the state constitution to take housing, meal or travel payments from the General Assembly for expenses being paid by other sources, not by the legislator,” Hall said.

Legislators are eligible to recoup up to $70 a day for housing expenses and $34 for meals. They can also receive 29 cents a mile in gas mileage for travel. 

These payments are tax-exempt because they are considered for “a public purpose,” Hall says. But when abused, they can equate to personal profit. 

This isn’t the first time Hall has complained about legislators misusing state funds. Last year, Hall filed a complaint alleging Senate President Phil Berger was using government funds to pay off the mortgage on a Raleigh condo Berger later he sold for an $80,000 profit. 

Hall’s latest complaint also claims Dobson and Torbett may have used campaign funds to pay for personal expenses, including clothes and dry cleaning. 

“It’s possible that these men have violated campaign finance laws by using their campaign accounts as a slush fund for their personal enjoyment,” Hall said.

Follow Raleigh News Editor Leigh Tauss on Twitter or send an email to

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.