Rural Center nixes severance to ex-director
Posted November 21, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — 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."
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.