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Board meets to discuss Rural Economic Development Center’s future

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N.C. Rural Economic Development Center Billy Ray Hall N.C. Rural Economic Development Center Billy Ray Hall
GRIFTON, N.C. -

The embattled leader of a state non-profit now can't access his severance package. The board of the 'North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center' made the decision at a meeting today.

9 On Your Side has been following the development center's problems.

Former director Billy Ray Hall retired under pressure after the state auditor issued a blistering report discovering suspicious money activity. After the report the state suspended the center's funding.

On top of freezing hall's severance the board also decided to form a special committee to negotiate with government agencies to transfer funds back to the center.

North Carolina's commerce secretary spoke at the meeting. Secretary Sharon Decker said there are big challenges ahead, but they have to put money back into rural parts of our state.

By freezing the funds many construction projects in the east are now on hold.

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Your tax payer dollars: potentially wasted.

North Carolina's State Auditor says the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center granted hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to projects and never followed up.

The State Auditor Beth Wood is calling it a lack of oversight at the center with no proof the money was being used effectively.

Earlier this week Gov. Pat McCrory froze the funds both going in and coming out of the center, meaning current projects might be put on hold and contractors are left trying to find out who will foot the bill.

Some contractors in the east are saying the freezing of the funds was premature as current projects like one in Grifton suddenly has no money to continue. Contractors who have already fronted hundreds of thousands of dollars won't get the promised reimbursements from the rural development center and city governments could be left with the bill.

The longtime president of the development center also retired shortly after the stinging audit took a look at his salary and a severance package dealt to him.

 

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Heated debate surrounding one of the state's publicly funded non-profits forces the governor to freeze the flow of cash. This week, the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center came under fire for excessive salaries and a lack of oversight.

Thursday marked a day full of developments for the "job generating" agency. The center's long-time President, Billy Ray Hall, resigned. In a memo to the Board of Directors, he said "it is the right decision for the organization and the rural communities we serve."

An audit released this week notes that Hall's salary of more than $220,000 was 77% higher than that of the secretary of the department of commerce.

The center says they use state and federal money to support business and infrastructure development in 85 North Carolina counties. But state auditors said the center doesn't verify that grant recipients are using their money for the intended purpose.

Governor Pat McCrory is calling for new leadership and to cease all state funding to the center.

On Friday, 9 On Your Side digs deeper into some of the programs the agency funds. We'll follow the money trail in our "Tracking Tax Dollars" report. 

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