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DA files no charges in Smithfield spending investigation

Posted May 15, 2015

— Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle said Friday that she won't pursue any criminal charges against Smithfield town employees in connection with a state audit that found irregularities in personal leave practices and alleged unauthorized salary increases.

Doyle called in the State Bureau of Investigation in July 2011 to investigate spending in Smithfield after the Town Council fired Town Manager Eric Williams. The council said Williams handed out hefty raises to four department heads, despite the council's decision to withhold raises because of a tight budget.

Although Williams hadn't signed the authorization forms related to the salary increases, investigators determined that he often relied on verbal directives and left written documentation unsigned, Doyle said. When Williams was on medical leave in early 2011, Town Clerk Debbie Godwin told investigators, he approved the raises during telephone calls to her, and Doyle said people in Godwin's office during the calls corroborated that.

Williams denied that he ever approved the raises but said in a related civil deposition that, "I was so high on meds, I do not know what I signed and
what I did not sign." Doyle said that uncertainty undermines his credibility as a witness in any criminal case.

The state audit also determined that Smithfield failed to establish and set forth clear practices and rules for employees, which Doyle said makes it difficult to prove that a crime occurred.

"The Town of Smithfield had no set policies, procedures or a checks-and-balances system that would prevent such reckless acts of greed by town employees," Doyle said in a statement. "While it is very disappointing that these town employees would act in such a way that is not in the best interest of the town or its citizens, their acts do not rise to the level of a crime.”


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