Officials fight over records in Hoke payroll probe
Posted April 14
Raeford, N.C. — A criminal investigation and an internal Hoke County investigation into payroll irregularities in county government are at an impasse, officials said Friday.
The State Bureau of Investigation took control of Hoke County offices on Feb. 20 to seize time sheets and other pay records for a handful of county employees. The following week, the Hoke County Board of Commissioners hired an outside accounting firm to conduct its own review of any irregular activity in county payroll records.
County officials said the accountants need "one critical piece of information" to complete their work: unaltered timesheets that Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin refuses to turn over.
"These critical records will help pinpoint anomalies that may have occurred and could help answer many questions," officials said in a statement, adding that they don't want access to the SBI's or the sheriff's criminal investigative files.
Peterkin said he has no obligation to give commissioners any information about his office because he and his deputies work independently from county employees. Superior Court Judge Jim Ammons agreed with Peterkin, on Wednesday denying the county's effort to force the sheriff to turn over the documents.
"When there is not transparency and our citizens are not given access to information, there are no winners. The county has committed to being transparent regardless of what is discovered. We ask that the sheriff’s department do the same," county officials said in their statement. "The longer this drags out, the more our community suffers."
Peterkin said the completion of the SBI's criminal investigation is all the transparency the county needs. It's unclear, however, when that will occur.
Commissioners plan to discuss the matter further during their meeting Monday night.
LaTonya Benjamin, the county's human resources director, has resigned because of the investigation, and Peterkin fired one of his employees.