LUMBERTON — Although no longer a member of the Four-County Community Services board of directors, Robeson County Commissioner Hubert Sealey says he is going to continue asking questions about allegations of financial mismanagement raised against Four-County in an internal audit by the state Department of Health and Human Services.
“It’s time someone gets in there and straightens this mess out,” Sealey said. “If I’m not aware of what is going on, I’m not doing my job … I am going to continue asking questions.”
Sealey has served as the representative on the Four-County board for the county Board of Commissioners since Aug. 1, 2011. There is no pay for the position and the only compensation received is a travel stipend paid by Four-County, Sealey said.
Sealey told The Robesonian that it caught him “totally by surprise” when the other seven county commissioners Monday voted to replace him on the Four-County board with Jason King, the county’s new assistant manager. Sealey, who was not present when the vote was taken, contends that none of the commissioners had made him aware that there was any dissatisfaction with his representation on the board.
Commissioner David Edge made the motion to replace Sealey on the board of the Laurinburg-based nonprofit that operates 16 Head Start preschools and administers programs for the poor, including housing assistance and weatherization, in a seven-county region. The counties are Robeson, Scotland, Bladen, Hoke, Columbus, Pender and Brunswick.
The commissioners ousted Sealey after the Four-County board’s chairman, Jimmy Cummings, wrote a letter to Noah Woods, chairman of the Robeson County Board of Commissioners, accusing Sealey of acting in a manner that was not “in the best interest of this organization.”
“On April 11, 2013, Mr. Sealey chose to act independently, giving no consideration to the fact that individual members of the board have no authority over the corporation and its affairs,” Cummings wrote. “… This action could place the agency, its 45-member board, and the people we serve in a position of jeopardy. In fact Mr. Sealey has exhibited behavior which breached his fiduciary responsibility.”
Cummings declined to specify what Sealey is alleged to have done to prompt the letter.
“I have no personal issue with Mr. Sealey,” Cummings said. “But our board has the responsibility to police so that no individual acts in a way that jeopardizes the operations of the corporation.”
Cummings pointed out that he did not ask that Sealey be removed.
“I sent the letter but made no recommendations,” Cummings said.
Four-County has been under fire since March, when the state audit revealed that nearly $75,000 had been misspent by the nonprofit’s former director and other employees. Based on audit findings, the agency also was ordered to repay the state about $300,000 for bonuses and retirement benefits that were inappropriately given between 2008 and 2011. Richard Greene was fired from his job as executive director of the agency.
In addition to allegations that Four-County has mismanaged some of the $21 million in state and federal grants it receives annually to administer its programs, the agency and employees Eric Pender and John Wesley are defendants in a lawsuit brought by eight women who contend that the men threatened to deny them housing assistance if they did not perform sexual acts.
Sealey contends that he has “no clue” what Cummings is referring to when he alleges he has breached his “fiduciary responsibility.”
“I had been at the office (in Laurinburg) when the (state) auditors were there,” Sealey said. “I had asked the board’s secretary for minutes of the board meetings and the meetings of the executive board. I have questions.
“I’m going to continue asking questions. This agency will not survive if we just sit here.”
Sealey said he is irked at his fellow Robeson County commissioners for not letting him know about the letter sent by Cummings or discussing the issue with him in either closed or open session.
“You would think with everything that is happening at Four-County they would have questioned me before taking any action,” Sealey said.
Woods and Edge both said Thursday that commissioners had discussed the issue among themselves individually.
“We discussed it when he was not around and agreed to what we wanted to do,” Edge said. “We heard he was causing problems with the (Four-County) board, and knowing the way he can be, I had no problem making the motion that he be replaced.”
Woods said he allowed the issue to be voted on Monday after other commissioners requested that action be taken.
“There were allegations, and board members talked individually before the meeting about what they wanted to do,” he said. “I’m just one board member. I was asked that this issue be addressed Monday.”
Sealey told The Robesonian on Thursday that he is not certain if he will attend the next Four-County board meeting on May 7 to defend himself and try to regain his seat on the board.
“I don’t know if I will go or not,” he said, “but I will probably be there.”