Local News

Nonprofit Group Under Fire Over Taxpayer Money

Posted June 16, 2005

— A $5 license plate fee in the 13-county Global Transpark Development Zone built the organization now known as the Eastern Region to help surrounding counties capitalize. More than $20 million later, some counties question where the taxpayer money goes.

"There are concerns. Now, whether there's money being used inappropriately. I can't say at this point and that's what we want to find out," said Wayne County Commissioner Wilbur "Andy" Anderson.

At the direction of Anderson and other Wayne County commissioners, the county manager fired off a letter that questions salaries of the 7-member nonprofit, including the executive director's pay, travel and benefit package that approaches $190,000.

Leaders want proof of documented clients. They also question extensive travel expenses for staff and the purpose of spending more than $70,000 for a Web site upgrade.

Eastern Region responded, stating pay is dictated by the market, travel is needed to stay up to date on development leads and trends and that the group has helped 69 companies locate in the zone.

Anderson wants more spent on roads, water and sewer.

"We want to see more money going into infrastructure," Anderson said. "We want to see money that way and not any more administrative expenses and that sort of thing."

Eastern Region Executive Director Tom Greenwood told WRAL that ultimately the proof is in the approval. Despite all the question, representatives of the 13-member counties overwhelmingly passed next year's budget.

The legislature is now considering a proposal to reduce the number of Eastern Region board members. Wayne County leaders said they will continue to question the nonprofit group's spending.

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