TAYLORTOWN — The police chief of the small Moore County town of Taylortown says he believes the mayor, arrested by other law enforcement agents last month, is out to fire him.
The mayor, arrested by the State Bureau of Investigation Feb. 22 on misdemeanor charges that he violated state laws barring public officers or employees benefiting from public contracts and mayors and councilmen acting as managers, isn’t speaking to reporters.
It is not a happy time in the small community adjacent to Pinehurst.
Mayor Ulysses S.G. Barrett Jr., mayor for 14 years, is accused of receiving thousands of dollars in taxpayer money for contracts he had with the town. He remains in office, however.
Police Chief Timothy Blakeley is able to show instances where the contracts with Barrett seem not to have worked to the town’s advantage.
"There's the crack," the chief said as he showed a broken wall in the public works building that stands empty and without power. The town paid Barrett more than $57,000 to do the job.
A public dumpster site, built for $4,000, has never been used.
"There's approximately, over a six-year period, about $170,000 been going to the mayor," Blakeley said.
A state statute forbids public officials from directly benefiting from public contracts they administer. Barrett got a warning from the state treasurer in 2002, to which the mayor replied that he "was unaware" of the law.
Barrett wrote that his own town council had adopted a policy preventing a public official from entering into a contract with the town, but in November 2005, Barrett hand-wrote a contract with the town to refurbish an old house on Main Street that town owns. His estimate was more than $29,000.
The chief says the council was aware of the contracts.
"There have been repeated meetings where the mayor has assured the town that everything he did was perfectly legal," Blakeley said.
Blakeley took the job of chief in 2003. Now he believes the mayor is out to fire him.
"He also made the statement he did not trust me, did not trust law enforcement officers in general, and would not ride in the same car with me," the chief said.
WRAL called the mayor on his cell phone, but got no answer. The council’s mayor pro tem said last week that Barrett refuses to speak with the media.
An independent audit of Taylortown's finances for fiscal 2006 turned up some questionable practices, and Moore County authorities asked the SBI to investigate.