ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. (WNCN) – There are growing calls for members of Rocky Mount’s city council to resign after an audit revealed tens of thousands of dollars were mishandled and some city leaders “used their positions for personal gain.”
Some residents were already outside the city’s municipal building ahead of an emergency meeting to discuss the audit when that meeting was canceled.
“I’m fed up. These guys have been taking advantage of us for too long,” said Steve Cederberg.
Rocky Mount Mayor Sandy Roberson canceled the meeting just two hours before it was scheduled to start.
More than half of the city council members said they would not attend.
Roberson is calling for an end to a “cycle of scandal and disgrace,” and said he wanted the city to be transparent in its handling of the audit.
“We need to make sure we are advancing the city of Rocky Mount the right way, building unity. We’ve got to acknowledge the facts that the auditor brought forth in her audit, and we need to deal with it,” he said.
Roberson wants council members to sign a contract that calls for independent an audit since some have denied the state auditor’s work.
The contract also requires every council member to disclose all property tax and utility bills owed to the city, and take an ethics course.
“If you’re not accountable, people can’t trust you. It’s that simple,” Roberson said.
The audit found that tens of thousands of dollars were mishandled, including $47,000 in unpaid utility bills by city councilor Andre Knight, according to Roberson.
State Auditor Beth Wood said he applied political pressure to get the bills written off.
“You have a council member that was serving for 17 years and has not paid a utility bill since 1999. There were attempts to collect on the utility bill and he didn’t,” Wood said.
The audit also revealed $892 in unallowable travel expenses related to two dinners.
The sum included meals for city council member spouses or exceeded the allowable per diem rate, specifically by the city manager.
In response the city argued that the city manager is allowed to exceed the per diem rate “as a reasonable accommodation for her medical condition.”
However, the auditor said a review of the meals included lobster and steak dinners and an individual steamed seafood bucket, saying “these expenses did not represent a prudent use of taxpayer funds.”
CBS 17 reached out to the city manager, Knight, and the council members who said they would not attend Thursday’s meeting.
The new meeting is scheduled for May 26 at 2 p.m.
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