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April 25, 2013

Princeville mayor, mayor pro tem claim innocence

PRINCEVILLE — PRINCEVILLE — Mayor Priscilla Everette-Oates and Mayor Pro-tem Commissioner Isabelle Purvis-Andrews are disputing the N.C. State Auditor's investigative report that states they inappropriately used town funds. The two highest ranking town officials are disturbed by the allegations to the point where they have made a claim stating that state officials are plotting against them with the aide of commissioners in her administration.  

According to the auditor's investigative report, Everette-Oates and town employee, Diana Draughn used town credit cards for questionable expenditures. Additionally, the mayor, Purvis-Andrews, and the interim town manager, Maggie Boyd received check reimbursements of $4,112 for travel expenses without adequate supporting documentation. The report also claims that the mayor entered into contracts without obtaining the required pre-audit or board approval resulting in excessive or imprudent expenditures for professional services. The report was sent to law enforcement investigators where criminal charges could be filed.

"I got a son to raise. I'm not going to prison for nobody," Everette-Oates said. "And I'm a minister too. I can't imagine something going across the TV screen about us (being arrested) because of the cahoots going on with LGC, the state auditor and our opponents (Commissioners Howell and Gwen Knight).

"They've (Local Government Commission) brought allegation against us for something that we didn't do and we have records to prove it."

She alleges that LGC moved all the records, including the credit card charges and reimbursement receipts, without the approval of the interim town manager and the town clerk.

In an attempt to prove their innoncence, Everette-Oates and Purvis-Andrews have obtained a lawyer. A letter written by their lawyer, Malvern King, states, "the State Auditor's office is attempting to indict and convict the administration of Priscilla Everette-Oates through contrived accusation."

"This time, we got a lawyer involved and he has clear evidence," Everette-Oates said. Attorney King has clear evidence of what he saw the LGC and the state auditor do."

Everrette-Oates and Purvis-Andrews are still bitter about the LGC taking over the town's finances in July 30. The takeover consisted of the state organization seizing all of the town's financial records. During its review of the records, LGC found credit card charges without receipts and questionable reimbursement for travel.

After the findings, the LGC notified the parties who were involved and asked them to submit the proper documents to support the credit card charges and the reimbursements. According to the LGC, Everette-Oates and Purvis-Andrews did not submitted the proper information therefore the governing body sent its findings to the state auditor's office.

Before the takeover the town finances were in shambles and in near default of paying on a loan. The general fund was at an all time low while the town was late on paying its vendors. Despite the towns financial condition, Everette-Oates and Purvis-Andrews didn't want the state to take over.  

"I'm going to be honest with you, up to today, I say that they should not have took our books," the mayor said. "Most of the negative balance came from the past administration and something had to be done about it."

Commissioners Calvin Sherrod, Howell and Knight have publicly stated their pleasure with the LGC taking over the town.

"I don't believe that the state auditor and the other who have conducted these investigation have made a mistake," Howell. "Therefore I have to trust and believe what they have presented to me. I have confidence in their investigation. I'm sorry that it happened that way but it is something that is out of my control. It will be a pleasant day once all of this is behind us a board member and as citizen."

Since the beginning of the administration in 2009, Everette-Oates and Purvis-Andrews have been at odds with Knight and Howell. Everette-Oates claims the fight stems from the previous administration when Delia Perkins was the mayor.   

This term is the second for Everette-Oates and Purvis-Andrews who also were elected in 2000. Everette-Oates was defeated by Perkins in 2005 and then in 2009 she defeated Perkins again.

With the election looming in November, Everette-Oates and Purvis-Andrews said they have not gave any attention to whether or not they would seek reelection.

"I'm just concentrating on what going on now," the mayor said. We're taking it one day at a time."

 

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