An investigation by the state auditor’s office found evidence of financial wrongdoing in Spring Lake — including the embezzlement of more than $430,000 — that is being turned over to the FBI and the State Bureau of Investigation to determine if criminal charges should be filed.
The investigation report, which was released Thursday, found that the town’s former accounting technician, who also served as Spring Lake’s finance director for more than a year, used at least $430,112 of the town’s money for personal use.
The report does not name the technician, but says in the footnotes that she served as the town’s finance director from March 2020 to April 2021 and as interim finance director from March 2020 to September 2020. Minutes of the town Board of Aldermen’s meetings show Gay Tucker serving as finance director in February 2021 and being appointed interim finance director in March 2020.
The report by State Auditor Beth Wood’s office also found that Spring Lake employees spent more than $100,000 of the town’s money on questionable credit card purchases and that at least $36,400 collected by the town was not deposited into Spring Lake’s bank account.
The town also erroneously overpaid its former economic development director $9,900 for his monthly cellphone stipend, according to the report.
The report also found that Spring Lake officials did not safeguard town vehicles and the town’s Board of Aldermen did not keep minutes of some closed meetings in 2019 and 2020.
The report comes about five months after the state Local Government Commission assumed control of Spring Lake’s finances because state officials became concerned about the town’s ability to balance its budget and live within its means.
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State officials had been trying to figure out how the town was going to make payments on its debt. The takeover happened after the commission learned that the town had a $1 million loan that had not been reported to state officials.
The commission had warned Spring Lake officials about its finances twice in the months leading up to the commission’s decision to take control. Wood, who serves as a member of the commission, had recommended the move and said her office had launched an investigation to look for missing money.
Local news editor Steve DeVane can be reached at email@example.com or 910-486-3572.