Audit: Tarboro workers obtained improper benefits
Posted July 22
Tarboro, N.C. — The current mayor of Tarboro, a former town manager and a former clerk obtained more than $500,000 combined in improper benefits, from state unemployment checks to insurance coverage to personal expenses, according to a state audit released Tuesday.
Auditors recommended that Tarboro and state officials seek repayment of misused funds and determine whether any civil or criminal actions need to be pursued, and the audit's findings were turned over to the State Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service and other authorities.
Sam Noble, who retired in 2011 as town manager, rang up about $101,000 in questionable purchases, such as shirts, coolers, handguns, gun holsters, life vests, flashlights, helmets, wetsuits, marine equipment and jackets, the audit states. Most of the items were charged to the budget's of various town departments although they didn't need the items.
Many items were shipped to his home address, and he returned them to the town after his retirement, according to the audit.
Noble also received about $92,000 in reimbursements over a five-year period for trips and meals that auditors deemed questionable or unnecessary. Mayor Rick Page accompanied Noble on one trip to Norfolk, Va., and told auditors, “I am not sure what the purpose of the trip was... a lot of it probably didn’t make sense."
Some of the meals were with Town Council members after council meetings, according to the audit.
Noble also, without Town Council approval, converted his town-purchased life insurance policy to universal life coverage, upped the death benefit and increased the annual premiums, which also increased the cash value of the policy, according to the audit. He billed the town to reimburse him for the changes, which auditors determined led to more than $87,000 in untaxed benefits because the insurance policy was part of his compensation package.
The audit also notes that Page, when he served as director of Tarboro's electric department, turned in reimbursements for health coverage totaling more than $27,000, stating the coverage was for him when it was actually for his ex-wife.
Also, a former accounting clerk, who wasn't identified, received more than $30,000 in unemployment benefits after quitting her job voluntarily in 2010, according to the audit.
Auditors said the Tarboro Town Council needs stricter oversight of its town manager's purchases and activities, reviewing his performance on a regular basis. The council also should adopt ordinances prohibiting town workers from accepting gifts from the manager or having informal meetings with the manager over dinner before and after council meetings.