County spending challenged
Commissioners get earful during public comment
By Bob Shiles email@example.com
LUMBERTON — During the public comment session on Monday, the Robeson County Board of Commissioners was told there needs to be more transparency in county government and more accountability in how taxpayer dollars are spent.
Phil Locklear, a Red Springs resident, presented financial information that he gleaned from his review of invoices and other financial documents relating to what the county paid its former attorney, Hal Kinlaw. He said that the documents he reviewed did not clearly show where money to pay the attorney came from and what the money was actually spent for.
“I have one simple request,” Locklear told the commissioners. “Where did the money go?
“We need an explanation of where the money went,” he said. “That’s a lot of money.”
The commissioners by protocol do not answer residents who raise concerns during the during the public comment period.
According to Locklear’s information, Kinlaw charged the county $191,000 in 2010; $208,000 in 2011; $233,000 between January and June 2012; and $517,000 between July 2012 and March 2013.
Locklear said he could not tell where the money for paying Kinlaw came from.
“When I looked at the line items I couldn’t tell whether the money is county, state or federal,” he said.
Commissioner Hubert Sealey asked County Manager Ricky Harris to “check the accuracy of the numbers” presented by Locklear.
Also during the public comment period, another Red Springs resident, Lynn Locklear, told the commissioners that it’s time that they and any candidates who plan to run for a seat on the Board of Commissioners let their positions on major issues affecting county taxpayers be known.
“We all want the best leaders,” he said.
Locklear said that there will be candidate debates sponsored by local veterans organizations for the upcoming May primary. He urged all commissioners and those who hope to unseat those up for re-election to take part in these events.
The commissioners up for re-election include Noah Woods, the board’s chairman; David Edge, the board’s lone Republican; Sealey; and Lance Herndon.
The commissioners Monday also unanimously voted in favor of a resolution showing the board’s support of the Robeson County Teen Court and youth services efforts to prevent and reduce youth violence in the county.
According to Jim Barbee, who oversees the programs administered by the University of North Carolina’s Rrural Academic Center for Excellence in Youth Violence Prevention, the resolution is needed to help the center receive grant money to keep the programs active.
The site of the center, located in Lumberton, was selected to implement a five-year study of violence prevention. Robeson County is one of the most ethnically diverse rural counties in the United States.
Barbee said that there are five Academic Centers of Excellence in Youth Violence Prevention that have been established nationwide by the Division of Violence Prevention at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“But the center in Robeson County is the only one studying violence in a rural area,” Barbee said.
In other business, the commissioners on Monday:
— Agreed to set fees for the processing of employee paperwork, including disability and insurance claims, through the county’s Wellness Center. The fees were established at the request of Wellness Director Angela Locklear, who according to Commissioner Roger Oxendine, the county’s Personnel Committee chairman, says the processing of forms is taking too much employee time.
Processing of employee paperwork has been free.The processing fee will now be $25.
— Heard a presentation from Everett Stiles with the N.C. Foreclosure Prevention Fund, and Barbie J. Hunt with the Robeson County Community Development Corporation concerning the state’s Foreclosure Prevention program. Hunt said that her agency has helped more than 120 homeowners in Robeson County save their homes through the program.
— Recognized Logan Cameron, a seventh-grade student at Fairmont Middle School, for being elected the vice president of North Carolina’s Junior Beta Club. She was elected to the position earlier this month at the 22nd znnual Junior Beta Club Convention in Greensboro.
— Approved the appointment of Tammara Abernathy Jones to the Robeson County Board of Health.
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