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State commission installs new finance officers for troubled North Carolina town – The Center Square

(The Center Square) – North Carolina’s Local Government Commission voted to install new finance officers for the town of Spring Lake after a state audit that revealed possible embezzlement and other questionable spending and management issues.

The commission, which is chaired by State Treasurer Dale Folwell and staffed by the treasurer’s State and Local Government Finance Division (SLGFD), voted to retain David Erwin as town finance officer and to appoint Tiffany Anderson and Susan McCullen as deputy finance officers. All three are SLGFD employees.

The move came a week after the release of a state audit that found more than $500,000 in wrongful and questionable spending, including at least $430,112 of town funds diverted to personal use, $36,400 in missing money and $102,877 in questionable town credit card purchases.

The audit also exposed the failure of local officials to properly inventory municipal vehicles to prevent theft and misuse, as well as the failure of the Board of Aldermen to keep meeting minutes, among other issues.

The Local Government Commission (LGC) impounded Spring Lake’s books and records and assumed control of the town’s finances in October over concerns local officials might default on nearly $250,000 in debt service payments, according to a LGC statement.

“We are pleased that the Local Government Commission was able to assist Spring Lake in resolving this payment processing situation,” Folwell said. “Employees, taxpayers and residents depend on their elected officials to find out what’s right, get it right and keep it right, and any time we can help a local government in that capacity, we are ready and willing. Our only goal is to save Spring Lake and keep it from drowning.”

Samantha Wullenwaber, who was serving as the town’s deputy finance officer at the behest of the LGC, was fired last Friday, and her abrupt departure left the town with limited options to sign checks, State Auditor Beth Wood told the LGC.

Spring Lake attorney Jonathan Charleston also submitted his notice to resign Wednesday, according to the LGC.

Wullenwaber had prepared a detailed response to the state audit that included explanation of how the issues identified occurred and specific actions aimed at addressing the issues, and it identified those responsible for implementing the recommended changes, as well as a timeline for completing the work.

The Spring Lake Board of Aldermen decided instead to submit a response to the audit from Charleston that Wood described as “vague and misleading” and did not contain essential answers to issues raised in the report.

“While we have worked with the Town through several challenges, we believe now is a good time to transition to new counsel,” Charleston wrote in his resignation letter to Spring Lake Mayor Kia Anthony.

Charleston noted his law firm is contractually obligated to give 30 days advance notice to terminate its contract, but “we can accommodate a sooner departure with the town’s express consent.”

Spring Lake is one of eight local governments under the LGC’s financial oversight. The others include Kingstown in Cleveland County, Spencer Mountain in Gaston County, Robersonville in Martin County, Cliffside Sanitary District in Rutherford County, East Laurinburg in Scotland County and Eureka and Pikeville in Wayne County.

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