Mary Katherine Murphy
RED SPRINGS — The governing board of Four-County Community Services fired its executive director Tuesday night after a state audit accused him of mismanaging state and federal money.
The board terminated Richard Greene during a two-and-a-half hour meeting — much of it behind closed doors.
Greene told reporters that he was “surprised and disappointed” by the firing.
Based in Laurinburg, the agency serves Robeson, Scotland, Bladen, Hoke, Columbus, Pender and Brunswick counties.
Four-County receives $21 million annually through state and federal grants to administer 16 Head Start programs as well as weatherization assistance and housing assistance funds to clients in the counties it serves.
The director came under scrutiny after the state Department of Health and Human Services released a 22-page audit that concluded that the agency misused money and failed to put proper procedures in place. The report said that the state auditor needed to conduct its own investigation of the non-profit.
“With all the things going on, something had to be done,” board member Hubert Sealey, who also is a Robeson County commissioner, said after the meeting, which was held at the Head Start in Red Springs. “There were so many allegations and some of them were substantiated. Anytime you are in the business of helping people, you have to be accountable.”
Sealey was among 25 board members at Tuesday night’s meeting at the Red Springs Head Start center.
Board Chairman Jimmy Cummings said the decision to sack the longtime director was not unanimous. The audit also accuses Cummings of mismanagement.
Among the audit’s findings, Greene is accused of using his agency vehicle for personal trips and concealing a nine-year marriage to Annie Rothwell, Four-County’s fiscal manager, in violation of the agency’s nepotism policy.
The audit also found that the agency misspent nearly $75,000 during fiscal year 2012 and several more thousands of dollars since fiscal year 2009. Fifteen of 18 allegations were substantiated in the audit.
Greene is also accused of not use a formal bidding process to select service vendors and that the board does not approve the contracts. Greene told auditors that the board delegated that responsibility to him and that there is no written policy on how contracts are acquired.
Greene has served as executive director for 25 years. He joined the agency in 1968.
The board is expected to meet again on Tuesday in Elizabethtown to continue discussing the audit and its recommendations.