Treasurer Folwell Adamant: LGC Did Not and He Will Not Approve Payment for Spring Lake Hire | Eastern North Carolina Now

Chair of Local Government Commission Concerned Over Board of Alderman's Town Manager Pick; Spring Lake Still Reeling From Two Adverse Audits; Introducing Additional Potential Risk Is Unwise

Press Release:

    (Raleigh, N.C.)     Citing statutory authority and the Local Government Commission's (LGC) financial oversight of Spring Lake, State Treasurer Dale R. Folwell, CPA, said as treasurer he will not approve the funds to hire Ms. Justine Jones as the new town manager.

    "Our primary goal is to save Spring Lake from drowning and return the town to financial health and operational stability," Treasurer Folwell said on Thursday, Oct. 13. "New and unsettling information has come to light about the past employment history of the individual who was offered the job. That information does not generate confidence that she is the right fit at this time to lead Spring Lake." State Auditor Beth Wood recently found over $500,000 in misappropriated funds from Spring Lake, and other questions about missing town property remain unanswered. A state audit in 2016 also found mismanagement of that town's finances.

    The Spring Lake Board of Aldermen voted 3-2 on Monday, Oct. 10, to hire Jones, one of two finalists for the top administrative position in the Cumberland County town. Most recently she was briefly employed as the town manager of Kenly in nearby Johnston County. She was dismissed there after concerns were raised about her management of the small town of 1,520. Spring Lake has a population of 11,600, which is more than seven times the size of Kenly.

    It has since been learned that Jones also had a rocky employment relationship with Richland County, S.C. After Richland County terminated her employment, Jones filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint that was dismissed, and then sued the county.

    Treasurer Folwell said he does not approve the hiring of Jones out of concern over the potential for legal and financial liabilities and potential adverse impact on town morale. "The town does not need a distraction from the important work they are doing to return the town to fiscal health," he said.

    The LGC, chaired by Treasurer Folwell and staffed by personnel in the Department of State Treasurer's State and Local Government Finance Division, has a statutory duty to monitor the financial well-being of Spring Lake and 1,100 other units of local government.

    With concern growing that the town was in danger of defaulting on its debt payments, LGC members voted in October 2021 to impound the town's books and records, assume control of its finances, and oversee and direct all its financial affairs, in accordance with N.C.G.S. Chapter 159 and the rules of the Commission. Under this authority and the town budget adopted by the LGC, the LGC Secretary and town finance officer are authorized to sign contracts for the expenditure of town funds. LGC staff has not been provided any information about the proposed salary and benefits for the position.

    Treasurer Folwell refuted public reports that the LGC had approved a list of candidates that included Jones' name. Although the town had provided a list of candidates to LGC staff, neither the LGC staff nor the Commission approved the list of candidates or the selection of any specific candidate. "Although our staff was silent on this hiring decision, on matters this important, we should never assume that silence is consent," Treasurer Folwell said.

    "We expect the Board of Aldermen to act like professionals and to serve their constituents with the high degree of stewardship and accountability expected of elected officials. In turn, we strive to treat them in a professional manner with respect for their office. It is our desire to allow the Board to make the best decisions possible for all taxpayers and residents. However, due to the town's past inability to stay on course, they are under our power of the public purse, and I believe it is necessary to oppose this selection in the best interests of the community," Treasurer Folwell said.

   Phone: (919) 814-3820
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