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Backstage at Easley's inauguration

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The show must go on, and so it will Saturday evening in the Raleigh convention center at the gala celebrating Gov. Mike Easley's inauguration to a second term. Hopefully, it will be quite a show, with a bit of everything from Jackie Gore (of "I Love Beach Music" fame) to the Triangle Youth Philharmonic to the A.J. Fletcher Opera. Unfortunately, the man who was supposed to be onstage managing it, Kelly Padgett, has been barred from the premises because the State Bureau of Investigation deemed him a security risk. So Padgett, the show's associate producer, will be in the production truck outside; and his boss, the producer Thomas Hunt, who's the expert in the truck, will do stage duty instead. Keep your fingers crossed, Hunt says.

Hunt, an Apex resident and one-time state House candidate, contracted with the Junior League of Raleigh, which traditionally runs the governor's inaugurals, to put on the show. He's been working on it, with Padgett's help, for seven months, he said. He's not pleased about being forced to switch roles late in the game, but the thing that really bothers him is that the SBI won't put in writing its objections to Padgett.

"We can't get copies of their memos. There's no due process at all, or any way to appeal it," Hunt says. "It's just 'no,' and that's it."

SBI Agent Michael East, who's in charge of inaugural security, says Padgett was told why in a face-to-face meeting. Spokeswoman Noelle Talley couldn't add much to that except to say that the bureau did a criminal background check on everyone working on the inauguration, and that letting Padgett work in the truck was "a compromise" reached with the inaugural committee.

Padgett's criminal record features a misdemeanor conviction for impersonating a law enforcement officer, for which he paid court costs of $200, he says. The charge arose out of a "pissing match" after he'd stopped near his hometown of Marion to help an injured hiker--he'd been a volunteer firefighter, and had some first-aid training--and was told to back off by an emergency medical technician. As he recalls it, the other guy said something like, "I'm a trained EMT," and he said, "Well, fuck you, I'm a trained federal agent."

It was pretty stupid thing to say, he admits. That was five years ago, when he was 22. Prior to that, he had a couple of other stupid moments, which resulted in misdemeanors for "being with a kid who stole stuff when I was 17--I didn't steal anything," and joyriding around a private golf course in one of the electric carts when he was 18.

He's matured since then, he says.

Padgett says he told East about all of it at least three months ago, knowing it would come up. Until two weeks ago, however, he assumed he was OK. Not so. "If I hear 9/11 one more time," Padgett begins--but then leaves that thought unfinished.

Anyway, Hunt and Padgett hope, if you're gala-bound, that you enjoy their show, which they believe will be a big step up from the one at Easley's first inaugural four years ago, which Hunt says softly "had some problems."

Teaming up as 1587 Entertainment--named for that famous year in North Carolina history--the two plan to keep producing shows for public events, perhaps including inaugurals in other states.

Unless Padgett's history as a security risk follows him around, that is.

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