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Rural Center nixes severance to ex-director

Posted November 21, 2013

— The board of the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center voted behind closed doors Thursday to deny former President Billy Ray Hall his $242,000 severance package.

Hall's $220,000 annual salary and the severance package were cited in a July state audit that led to his resignation and that of Rural Center Chairwoman Valeria Lee.

Board members declined to comment on the move, but Acting Chairman Bill Gibson said members decided to create a special committee that will "review and make recommendations for honoring Billy Ray's contributions to the center and rural North Carolina as a whole."

No further information was provided about the committee or whether honoring Hall's service would entail any monetary payout.

Hall and his attorney couldn't be reached for comment.

State lawmakers stripped the agency's funding and shifted oversight of rural economic development to the state Department of Commerce following the audit, which also criticized the center for not adequately monitoring its grants to ensure recipients use the money as intended.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger thanked the Rural Center board for its action through a Twitter message: "Pleased w/ Rural Center Board’s responsible stewardship of tax dollars intended to boost rural economies."

Rural Center, N.C. Rural Economic Development Center Withholding severance could set up legal fight for Rural Center

The Rural Center last month transferred most of its assets to the Commerce Department, and board members said they plan to move forward with a mission of coordinating business loans in rural communities and providing scholarships and leadership training.

After the transfer, the center was left with about $7 million, including $4.3 million in interest earned off state funding. State auditors and lawmakers criticized the agency's ability to retain the interest, but state law doesn't require the center to turn the earnings over to the state.

"Will we ever be at the same level where we were at the height of our funding and staffing? Probably not, given the budgetary times of today, but that doesn't mean we can't still have that impact," board member Brian Crutchfield said.

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  • chigirl47 Nov 26, 7:40 p.m.

    Apology accepted. For the record I am conservative & a republican. However,no matter what my preferred party, I can also recognize when they are in the wrong as well. It's called having core values but this administration seems to have lost those...the way they handled the rural centre was just plain wrong. They were not willing to work together with the centre to put improvements in place so that the really good work Hall & his employees did could continue for rural NC. No, I have no faith in state, local, & especially the federal government for the 2 parties to work together for the good of the people who put them in office.

  • notexactly Nov 26, 7:27 a.m.

    The rural center does do some great things, I agree. But obviously there was something very wrong there. They are just like any other gov. dept. If they have extra money at the end of the year, they make sure they spend it instead of rolling it back into the fund. I know from experience that sometimes the money they spend in this situation is wasted on not so smart things that really do not benefit the public as it should.

  • notexactly Nov 26, 7:21 a.m.

    My apologies chigirls47

    But your post clearly is throwing stones at the current gop admin of this state. All I am saying is that when the state was controlled by the dems as crooked as they were, none or not many complainers on here said anything about the dems. then. There is issues on both sides for sure. But if there was not any corrupt issues going on then how can you say the GOP ruined this man and the organization. This man and the corrupt big wigs ruined themselves, the GOP just called them out on it. Really should have been caught by the last admin. if they were doing their jobs.

  • chigirl47 Nov 25, 8:19 p.m.

    First of all, do not assume I'm a lib. That is totally insulting.
    What I am saying is that salary & audit was only an excuse. The Rural Centre did not do anything illegal or cheat anyone. You can find in any company or organization things that can be improved from an audit. But you don't crucify the director & dismantle the entire organization...usually the auditors work with them on improvements. That's what they did with Commerce when their audit was less than flattering. They sure didn't get the "flamethrower" out. Mr. Hall was threatened that if he did not resign the administration would not fund the center. He did it to make sure the centre would still be able to continue to provide services to people forgotten by others because they were poor...those folks out in our rural areas.But that was lie...as soon as he resigned...they cut funding anyway. As for his salary,it's not unusual to work up to that in almost 30 years when you have a master's & PhD as he did.

  • chigirl47 Nov 25, 7:34 p.m.

    First of all, do not assume I'm a lib. That is totally insulting.
    What I am saying is that salary & audit was only an excuse. The Rural Centre did

  • notexactly Nov 25, 4:11 p.m.

    Take a look at the large salaries in the last admin!!!! How bout the admin in Washington? Its all the same lay the blame every where, not just at one. Blind mice.

  • notexactly Nov 25, 3:58 p.m.

    They did reap what they sowed. They got canned because they cheated the tax payers. Funny how libs can have an excuse when they get caught cheating the system. Somehow you guys think that makes it right.

  • notexactly Nov 25, 3:57 p.m.

    but cheating the tax payer is not in his contract. Don't matter what is in it. He cheated the system so you should not be entitled to nothing.

  • What if_I could Nov 25, 1:58 p.m.

    Mr. Berger, thank Beth Woods audit. The board was not doing it's job by overseeing the money and audit's were in place. Get rid of the board too.

  • bean112455 Nov 25, 11:49 a.m.

    I worked for the state for 34 years, in Human Resources and no where did I ever see someone who resigned from their position entitled to severance pay. The state only paid that in times of reduction in force, and not often did we pay it then. So....I know this man and have worked with him in past. He has been employed by the state of NC as long as I have known him. He should have ample service to qualify for retirement. My guess is he will take this severance money (if he can get it), then he will submit his request to retire. Severance he should not get, retirement he has earned. One more thing, his resignation might have been a little forced, but if he were not guilty or something amiss via the organization he was director of, he would not have resigned without a fight.

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