The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

October 31, 2013

Princeville officials seek restitution, investigation


PRINCEVILLE — PRINCEVILLE — Commissioner Isabelle Purvis-Andrews' request to seek restitution from two former town managers and for the town attorney to investigate the alleged misuse of funds by two commissioners, created a heated verbal exchange between her and members of the former administration Monday during the town's monthly meeting.

The board is likely to have discussed the issues during a closed session that lasted approximately an hour. By General Statues, the general public is not privy to information discussed in closed sessions. When the board returned from the closed session, Mayor Priscilla Everette-Oates reported no action, that required a vote, had been taken.

Purvis-Andrews is alleging that $50,000 of the town's fund was used by two members of the board to buy building material in 1999 shortly after Hurricane Floyd flood waters devastated the town. She is also alleging another commissioner was given $64,000 for housing assistance around about the same time period while she did not qualify for to receive it. That commissioner was not on the board when the money was allocated.

Purvis-Andrews and Everette-Oates have accused the board members of wrongdoings for at least three years. They have made pleas to state and federal government officials including U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield to investigate the matter. When the Local Government Commission took over the town's finances in July 2012, they also made a plea to State Auditor Beth Wood to investigate the issues. Wood did investigate; however, she did not find any criminal acts according to a statement published in the state's investigative report which alleges that Everette-Oates misappropriated funds.

"The Edgecombe County District Attorney asked the State Bureau of Investigation to investigate several allegations regarding the Town of Princeville, including the two furnished by the mayor to the state auditor," the report stated. "It was confirmed that the SBI conducted an investigation and turned over the results to the Edgecombe County District Attorney, who reviewed the case and declined to prosecute. The Edgecombe County District Attorney then referred the case to the Attorney General's Special Prosecution Division, which also declined to prosecute."

Purvis-Andrews is also alleging that former town manager Sam Knight owes the town $25,000 in restitution for money that was spent for fictitious work. Knight was indicted and in September 2009 pled guilty to 13 counts of obtaining property by false pretense and one count of conspiracy to obtain property by false pretense.

Knight was sentenced to 30 months probation, with a suspended sentence of up to 16 months in prison and ordered to pay $25,292 within 90 days. Knight violated the probation by not paying the restitution and on Jan. 8, 2011 he was sentenced to up to eight months in jail.

In a story written in The Daily Southerner dated Jan. 11, 2010, Knight's attorney, Gene Muse, said that the restitution is not under an order to be paid back.

Former Commissioner Linda Worsley, who voiced her opinion during the public comment session, agreed with Muse.

"Sam Knight went to prison," she said emphatically. "He has served his time. He have did his debt to society. So y'all need to leave him alone."  

Purvis-Andrews is also seeking $6,000 from former town manager Victor Marrow. Marrow reportedly overpaid himself while he served as town manager. Marrow, who was terminated, worked for the town from Feb. 1, 2010 to Feb. 6, 2012. On Aug. 6, Marrow filed a suit against the town for breach of contract and wrongful termination.

Marrow's suit is alleging that the town owes him severance pay, accrued vacation, accrued compensatory time and the remaining compensation due under his employment contract.

Squabbles between board members are a constant at the town's meeting. Since the Local Government Commission took over the town finances in July 2012, the infighting appears to be more prevlant. Squabbles between Everette-Oates and Purvis-Andrews and former mayor, Delia Perkins are also a constant. The board members accused the Perkins administration for being in the red before Everette-Oates took office.

Monday night Purvis-Andrews accused Perkins' administration for the financial crisis that the town is currently in. During the citizen comment portion of the meeting, Perkins personally addressed them by giving them a town financial budget summary document dated November 2009.

According to the document, expenditures were $736,997 and the expenditures that were budgeted were $1,843,957.

On a good note, the town's police chief, Joey Petway, gave an impromptu soulful rendition of the spiritual "I Need Thee" after he gave his report. Afterward, he was given a rousing round of applause.