SPRING LAKE -- The Spring Lake Board of Aldermen was introduced to the town’s new interim finance officer — an appointee of the state employed to help the town regain its fiscal footing after a large embezzlement was discovered in 2021 — and also voted to dispose of 14 town vehicles Monday night.
Kendra Boyle was appointed finance officer on Sept. 12 by the state Local Government Commission, which assumed control of Spring Lake’s finances in October 2021. Boyle, assistant director of the Fiscal Management Section of the State and Local Government Finance Division for the N.C. Department of the State Treasurer, replaces the retiring David Erwin.
Erwin was joined at Monday’s meeting by his wife, Elizabeth, and presented a plaque by the town thanking him for his service over the past two years.
“When you came in, Spring Lake was in a very bad place,” Mayor Kia Anthony told Erwin. “We had $1.6 million in the general fund, and it was projected that it would take seven years to get back to viability.”
Alderman Raul Palacios agreed, displaying a copy of the town’s latest bank statement.
“A year and a half ago, there were a lot of stumbling blocks including things we had to overcome and the road was not smooth the whole time,” Palacios said. “Thank you for working with us. Ultimately, it was for your benefit … $1.6 million in the general fund where we didn’t know if we were going to make payroll to now having $11.2 million.”
The LGC took over Spring Lake’s finances two years ago after state audits and a subsequent investigation showed former town Finance Director Gay Cameron Tucker embezzled $567,070 between 2016 and 2021. Last September, Tucker was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of embezzlement from a local government receiving federal funds and one count of aggravated identity theft.
Anthony said the town had learned valuable lessons under Erwin and through the watchful eye of the Local Government Commission.
“We know that just because we have it, doesn’t mean we are going to spend it,” Anthony said.
Boyle said she looked forward to working with the town’s administrative team.
“I will have a detailed finance presentation at a future meeting,” said Boyle.
Disposal of town vehicles approved
The board’s vote to dispose of 14 vehicles came after a presentation by interim Town Manager Jason Williams, who said those in question were ready to be sold or discarded.
“These are all not being used, or in too much disrepair, including eight police cars,” he said.
Referencing missing cars listed in a 2021 Spring Lake Invesitigative audit report, Anthony said the town is trying to keep an accurate count of vehicles to follow town policy.
“For the record, we are keeping track of our vehicles,” she said. “We are keeping it clean.”
Williams said most of the disposed vehicles have been replaced — including six of the eight police cars and an unusable wooden trailer — using federal American Rescue Plan funding.
“Those ARPA funds came at the right time,” Erwin said.
Residents invited to participate in mural
Palacios announced that the Spring Lake Appearance and Sustainability Committee is asking the public to get involved with the mural installation on Main Street as part of the new Spring Lake Art Trail.
The committee is seeking as many as five volunteers to help in three-hour shifts -- 9 a.m.-noon, noon-3 p.m. and 3-6 p.m. -- on Oct. 11-15 to assist North Carolina artist Max Dowdle with painting the mural. The mural, which will be painted on the wall at 102 N. Main St., will depict a theme including America, its troops and the 82nd Airborne Division.
“You can help brighten our community,” Palacios said. “You can create a legacy and drive by saying, 'I had a part of it.'”
Committee members asked volunteers to wear comfortable clothes they don’t mind getting messy.
Weather has delayed some of Dowdle’s other projects, postponing the start of Spring Lake’s mural.
“His new plan is to start on Oct. 9 and finish Oct. 18,” Palacios said.
Those interested in volunteering can email Deanna Rosario, stormwater director and staff liaison to the committee, at email@example.com.
The committee's plan is to unveil the mural at the Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 10. The ceremony will be a joint venture between the Appearance Commission and the Military and Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee.
The board went into executive session for almost an hour citing attorney-client privilege. A vote on the consent agenda was delayed at the beginning of the meeting until after the executive session.
When the board returned, it voted to release nine sets of closed-session minutes ranging from March 25, 2019, to April 12, 2021.
In other board business:
The next regular board meeting will be at 6 p.m. Oct. 9 in the Grady Howard Conference Room of the Spring Lake municipal complex.