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Board chair of Rural Center resigns

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

The board chairwoman of the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center resigned Wednesday, the center confirmed Wednesday.

Valeria Lee had insisted she would not resign from the board of the beleaguered center, which where president Billy Ray Hall retired under pressure and the state cut its funding.

But in an email Wednesday, she said, "For the Rural Center and everyone it touches, the past few months have been incredibly difficult. My goal as chair during this period was to create a process and plan to move our mission forward. The transition team is in place to do that and we can hope soon to have a clear path for the future."

Hall resigned under pressure earlier this month. His severance package amounts to more than $240,000.

Gov. Pat McCrory had earlier called for  Lee's resignation but she adamantly refused to step down.

"I am still chair ... I do not know that I have to step down," Lee said Monday.

But by Wednesday, that had changed.

State legislators have defunded the center and created a new division within the Department of Commerce to handle the work of the Rural Center after a blistering report by the State Auditor released earlier this month outlined the misuse of state funds.

The board on Monday voted to form a special committee of five members of the board, including appointed and elected members, to determine how the center should move forward. The committee will also meet with the appropriate governmental officials to negotiate and approve a plan to transfer the state funds to the appropriate state governmental agencies.

The committee is expected to make a recommendation to the full board whether the center should begin the process of dissolution at next month's board meeting.

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