Local News

Princeville mayor indicted on embezzlement charges

Posted August 6, 2013 4:19 p.m. EDT
Updated August 8, 2013 9:50 a.m. EDT

— Princeville Mayor Priscilla Everette-Oates has been indicted on 17 counts of embezzlement by a public official, authorities said Tuesday.

Everette-Oates, 48, of 316 Russell Drive, surrendered to State Bureau of Investigation agents in Tarboro on Wednesday and was released on a $7,500 unsecured bond.

The indictment alleges that she rang up $5,634 in unauthorized charges on a town credit card between August 2010 and January 2012.

"We regret any criminal charges were filed against Mayor Oates. She plans to plead not guilty in court," said her attorney, Malvern King.

The charges come four months after a state auditors accused Everette-Oates of charging $8,115 to a town credit card without any receipts to back up the spending. Charges included $1,255 to Madison Steak and Seafood and $222 to Bed Bath & Beyond.

State auditors began looking into Princeville's finances last summer after the state Local Government Commission took control of the town's books. At the time, Princeville was 9 percent over budget and was in danger of defaulting on a loan.

Town officials told auditors that they believed "most of the charges had no legitimate business purpose," and Everette-Oates refused to speak with auditors. Her attorney said in April that she had turned over the required documentation to town officials, who routinely approved her spending.

At the time, King accused the State Auditor's Office of working with the Local Government Commission and members of the Princeville Town Commission to bring down Everette-Oates.

The audit also determined that Everette-Oates received $3,289 for travel expenses that weren't documented, such as $1,693 for a May 2010 workshop in Washington, D.C., when there was no evidence that she even attended.

She also hired a lawyer and a consultant for Princeville without the approval of town commissioners, according to the audit, which notes that the consultant used to work for a company in which she has an ownership stake.

The attorney's fees more than doubled the $36,000 Princeville budgeted for legal services in fiscal 2011, and the town paid for the lawyer to travel from Durham for monthly town board meetings, to draft letters to the local newspaper and to help set up Wi-Fi service in Town Hall, according to the audit.

Tonya Oliver Montanye, a financial crimes prosecutor with the state Conference of District Attorneys, will handle the case against Everette-Oates.

The State Treasurer's Office, which oversees the Local Government Commission, declined to comment on the indictment.

The Local Government Commission remains in control of Princeville's finances, said Schorr Johnson, a spokesman for the Treasurer's Office. All accounts are current, but the town's finances still need more work, he said.

Princeville has the dubious distinction of being the only North Carolina municipality whose finances were twice overtaken by the Local Government Commission. The first time occurred in 1997.