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July 10, 2013

Princeville board says it didn't okay credit card charges

PRINCEVILLE — PRINCEVILLE — During a special called meeting Monday night, the board voted "no" to allow the Local Government Commission (LGC) to categorize questionable credit card charges and travel expenses by town officials and place them in the town's 2012-2013 budget.

The issue has been brewing since the LGC revealed in an audit report that Mayor Priscilla Everette-Oates and former town clerk Diana Draughn made questionable credit card purchases totaling more than $10,000 without providing proper receipts or documents.

LGC also charged that Everette-Oates, commissioner Isabelle Purvis-Andrews and former interim town manager Maggie Boyd spent more than $4,112 combined for travel reimbursements without adequate supporting documents.

Commissioners Ann Howell, Gwen Knight and Calvin Sherrod voted against it.  Everette-Oates and Purvis-Andrews abstained from voting.

Everette-Oates and Commissioner Purvis-Andrews have openly argued that they are innocent.

A "yes" vote would have given the LGC permission to place the questionable expenses in their respective categories in the 2012-2013 budget. A "yes" vote would have resolved the matter while the "no" vote keeps the matter under investigation.

"We as a board never approved them spending money in that manner," said Howell. "They were wrong.

"I don't know what's going to happen next. As for as I know, it's still being investigated by the SBI."

In April, Edgecombe County District Attorney Robert Evans said he asked the SBI to probe the spending to determine whether criminal charges are warranted. The SBI already was examining the town’s state-funded construction projects. The audit also referred the findings to additional state and federal authorities.

Knight said the meeting was "argumentative." She said a discussion concerning numerous credit cards that were used by at least 12 people was one of the hot topics.

"I want to know the names of those 12 people," Knight said. "Until we got the audit, I didn't know anything about the credit cards, nor the purchases made from the credit cards."

Knight said Everette-Oates blamed former town manager Victor Marrow for the problems. Marrow was the town manager from February 2010 to February 2012.   

The special called meeting was first set for June 29, but Everette-Oates stopped that meeting, saying notices that were given to the commissioners were unlawful and not in compliance with the General Statutes.

According to an article in the General Statutes, elected officials must give the public at least a 48-hour notice for special called meetings. The purpose of the meeting must be also be stated on the notice.

The notice failed  to meet both requirements. At the same meeting, town attorney Ben Brewington corrected the problem by typing a proper notice and then personally handed a copy to each commissioner.

"I'll be glad when this is over so that we can get our books back and new officers in place," Knight said. "We need someone who cares about the welfare of Princeville. I'm tired of the embarrassment. I know for a fact that Princeville citizens will be glad when it's over, too."

 

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