Town leaders call on Princeville mayor to resign - WNCN: News, Weather

Town leaders call on Princeville mayor to resign

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

The mayor and a town employee of Princeville used town credit cards for questionable expenditures, according to a report released Monday by the North Carolina State Auditor's Office. As a result of the audit, two town commissioners are calling on the mayor to resign.

The audit said the mayor, a commissioner and the interim town manager received check reimbursements of $4,112 for travel expenses without adequate supporting documentation. It also reported the mayor entered into contracts without obtaining the required pre-audit or board approval resulting in excessive or imprudent expenditures for professional services.

On Monday, commissioners Ann B. Howell and Gwendolyn Knight said Mayor Priscilla Everette-Oates should resign.

"When you can't perform, you should always be willing to step down," Howell said.

"All the money that has been misused and the things it has been personally spent for, that's what makes me mad -- really mad," Knight said.

[PDF] Read the full audit here

The audit noted that the takeover of a local government's finances has happened only five times in North Carolina history, and two involved Princeville (1997 and 2012). In 2012, the state expressed concern about whether Princeville could meet its financial obligations. Then the state's Local Government Commission voted to take over the town's finances.

The audit shows the mayor had $8,115 in charges to a town Visa card that were "not supported by receipts." Those charges included 11 charges to hotels for $1,146, 95 charges for gas in the amount of $4,726, and 81 charges to restaurants for $4,006.

According to the audit, "The majority of those charges did not have a clearly documented business purpose. Moreover, the volume of credit card activity did not seem to commensurate with the population of Princeville or the Mayor's responsibilities."

The expenditures included 22 visits to Madison Seafood in Rocky Mount, 11 to Crystal Palace, 15 visits to Office Depot and two visits to Bed, Bath and Beyond.

The audit said that the mayor's personal attorney responded on the mayor's behalf, and said the supporting documents had been supplied to the former town finance officer, but that the files were missing.

The audit found other problems. For example, the mayor purchased train fare to Washington and also billed the city for fuel for that trip. The State Auditor discovered the train fare was actually for a consultant.

According to the audit, the mayor refused, through an attorney, to be interviewed as part of the audit. The audit includes a letter from attorney Malvern F. King Jr. saying Everette-Oates would not submit to an interview but would answer questions in writing.

The Associated Press reported that King called the report full of "contrived accusations." Everette-Oates did not respond to phone or email messages directly, the AP said.

Oates served as mayor from 2003-05 and was re-elected as mayor in 2009. According to the Rocky Mount Telegram, she won election by stressing the importance of integrity in office after a former town manager pleaded guilty to misusing town funds.

"I'm going to make sure we do a serious audit so no money can be misused any more," Oates told the newspaper.

The audit also notes that the mayor "entered into contracts without obtaining the required pre-audit or board approval, resulting in excessive or imprudent expenditures for professional services."

For example, an attorney was paid $150 an hour to write letters to the editor to the Daily Southerner newspaper, set up wireless Internet in the Town Hall and travel to and from board of commissioners meetings.

The audit notes that its findings have been referred to the State Bureau of Investigation, the Edgecombe County District Attorney, the Internal Revenue Service and the N.C. Department of Revenue.

Princeville, founded by freed blacks after the Civil War, was heavily damaged by floods after Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

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