ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. (WNCN) – The mayor of Rocky Mount is taking action in light of a scathing auditors report released last week.
That report claimed tens of thousands of dollars were mishandled and some leaders in the city “used their positions for personal gain.”
The mayor said he doesn’t want it to happen again.
Mayor Sandy Roberson, who was elected in November, said he was embarrassed by the audit which was generated after a year’s investigation into more than 200 complaints sent into the auditor’s office.
The report’s findings cited several irregularities totaling more than $151,000.
“We violated the trust of the resident population of Rocky Mount,” said Roberson.
Among the issues cited by the auditor, $47,000 in unpaid utility bills by a city councilor who the auditor said applied political pressure to get them written off.
The state auditor does not identify the councilor, but the mayor wants that person gone.
“I’ve asked for folks to remove themselves who were named in the audit and do the honorable thing and resign,” he said. “So far, we’ve had no one come forward from the council and say ‘It’s me.’ No statement of apology or contrition whatsoever.”
The audit also said the city lost more than $32,000 from downtown development program loans that went uncollected.
It also said the city suffered a loss of $28,000 in improperly awarded funds.
The auditor said the city offed no explanation to her staffers as to why that happened.
Rocky Mount must also pay back $31,000 for allowing a development bond to expire, said the report.
The audit said the city manager should reimburse Rocky Mount for $1,600 in improper per diem payments for steak and lobster meals.
The mayor says it’s time for council to step up and sign an ethics contract.
“The contract will entail such things as an ethics course to be taken on an annual basis,” said the mayor. “It would also require the disclosure of direct and indirect conflicts of interest.”
He said it would also require the council to show utility statements and disclose any property taxes they owe to Rocky Mount.
Some city councilors dispute the auditor’s findings so the mayor says he wants an outside forensic audit to be conducted.
“I’m asking it be done on an annual basis looking for waste, fraud and abuse,” he said.
The mayor said he has also reached out to the local district attorney, the State Bureau of Investigation and the Attorney General’s office asking those agencies to look into the allegations made in the report but he’s unsure if any of it rises to the level of criminal behavior.
He also will meet face-to-face with State Auditor Beth Wood to discuss the audit.
Because of the way city government is set up in Rocky Mount, the mayor says he “has little statutory control and authority” and that most of the power resides in the city council.
He said he’s called a council meeting for Thursday evening to discuss the situation.
Roberson said it would take five votes to remove a council member and four votes to censure a member.
He is unsure what the council will do.