Board surprised by hiring of ex-county attorney

Last updated: July 31. 2014 10:02AM - 3489 Views
By - bshiles@civitasmedia.com

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LUMBERTON — Former Robeson County Attorney Hal Kinlaw has been granted a six-month contract with the county’s Department of Social Services to work on conflict cases, a decision that the chairman of the department’s board called “kind of disappointing.”

Kinlaw’s contract took effect July 1.

Becky Morrow, executive director of the Social Services Department, said that Kinlaw has been involved in DSS conflict cases during the past year that he needs to complete. She said that he is paid on a case-by-case basis.

“Hal, as county attorney, worked on conflict cases for us over the years,” Morrow said. “He’s just continuing these cases that need to be completed.”

The decision to hire Kinlaw for another six months came as a surprise to members of the county’s DSS board, Raymond Cummings, the board’s chairman said Wednesday. The hiring of personnel is at the discretion of the executive director, Cummings said.

According to Cummings, the board learned of Kinlaw’s contract on Tuesday, when Morrow was asked at the close 0f the board’s monthly meeting about Kinlaw’s status with DSS. Public concerns had been raised, Cummings said, about Kinlaw having been seen working at DSS.

“Hiring is her decision alone. We have no jurisdiction over that,” Cummings said. “We had no prior knowledge that she was going to extend Hal’s contract. She didn’t have to tell us that she was going to do it, and she didn’t.

“It’s kind of disappointing that she hired Hal with so much of a cloud looming over him,” Cummings said.

Kinlaw is one of two attorneys currently working for DSS. The other is Kimberly Jones, an attorney with a private practice in Lumberton.

Kinlaw resigned as Robeson County attorney in June 2013 after it became public that he is being sued by BB&T for almost $18 million in unpaid loans. He had been the county’s attorney for more than 20 years.

Although he has officially resigned his position, Kinlaw has remained on the county payroll, getting a stipend of $5,000 a month. According to County Manager Ricky Harris, Kinlaw works for the County Manager’s office.

BB&T filed six lawsuits against Kinlaw on April 15, 2013. In addition to the attorney, his wife Marcia, Anita Jo Kinlaw Troxler, and five companies were named as defendants.

Kinlaw told The Robesonian shortly after the lawsuits became public that he was in a “bad investment scenario” and “trying to work out a way to pay everything back.” He said that his problems center on several tracts of land he had purchased over the years in Onslow and other coastal counties for development companies. None of the land is in Robeson County, he said.

Tuesday’s meeting of the DSS board was the first for new board members Jerry Stephens and Lance Herndon, both Robeson County commissioners. Stephens was appointed to the board by the Robeson County Board of Commissioners to replace outgoing board member the Rev. T.S. Byrd. Herndon was appointed by the N.C. Social Services Commission to fill the unexpired three-year term of George McPhaul.

Raymond Cummings was unanimously re-elected chairman of the five-member board. Jansen King was re-elected for another year to serve as the board’s vice chairman.

In other business, the board was updated on the status of the county’s transition of Medicaid applications to the state’s NC FAST system. By Aug. 31, Morrow said, all backlogged applications have to be caught up and be keyed into the new computer system,

“We think we have a plan in place to get all of our applications up to date by the state’s Aug. 31 deadline,” Morrow said.

According to Sandra Lee, a program manager for Medicaid, the county has 2,032 back cases to handle by Aug. 31, but 500 have been identified as duplicates, leaving the number of cases at 1,532.

“We are taking the expertise of all of our workers and putting it in place so that we will get the job done,” Lee said.

Lee said that all county DSS departments across the state are struggling to get backlogged cases into the new system by Aug. 31.

“It’s a challenge, but we are all in the same boat,” Lee said. “But we are getting closer to the shoreline. We are going to get there.”

According to Lee, once information from all programs are in new system, both DSS workers and clients will benefit.

“Clients won’t have to come in and tell their story more than once when they seek benefits,” she said. “As it is now, a client has to go through their story for every program — food stamps, Medicaid or whatever — that they apply for. With NC FAST they only have to tell their story once. This is a client-friendly system.”

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