Duplin DA: Schools didn't violate law
By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on July 21, 2010 1:22 PM
District Attorney Dewey Hudson has closed an investigation into the Duplin County Board of Education's funding management, citing limited state resources and a lack of evidence to support pursuing the issue further.
The decision ended a months-long investigation into actions some Duplin County commissioners and citizens believed constituted improper use of school funding.
Commissioners Cary Turner, Harold Raynor and David Fussell and residents Sonya B. Smith, Rufus R. Myers and Derl G. Walker sent a letter to Hudson in September 2009 asking for a state investigation, Hudson said Tuesday in a statement.
The letter raised concerns allegedly involving funding for a camera system, the school board's decision to hire a firm to work on the school systems' computers instead of having the information technology department do the work, proper management of grant funding and payment of travel expenses for a Duplin County Schools employee who did not move or incur any moving experiences.
In October 2009, Hudson's office requested the State Bureau of Investigation look into the matter. The attorney's office determined the majority of the areas of concern were not sufficient to warrant criminal investigation.
"They were not supported by any evidence that showed criminal activity, and further, even if the allegations were true, they did not violate criminal laws," Hudson said.
The office examined an audit of the school system's monetary practices that was requested by the county commissioners. Although the audit showed areas that the school board at that time "needed better business practices to function more efficiently," it did not reveal criminal violations, the district attorney said.
Only one area of concern listed in the letter was investigated further. The letter alleged that Nathan Currie, former director of special programs for minority achievement, received money for moving expenses without actually moving.
The investigation completed April 1 "revealed that the information provided by Commissioner Turner regarding Mr. (Nathan) Currie improperly receiving moving expenses was incorrect," Hudson said.
A second review by another prosecutor from Onslow County was completed over a three-day period in May 2010. The second review consisted of re-examining the financial audit, the State Bureau of Investigation report and the file of the previous Onslow County prosecutor who reviewed the case.
"Other than mere allegations, my office was provided no information to support any criminal violations to warrant further investigation," Hudson said. "I agree with the prosecutors' decisions that additional investigation is unwarranted. Furthermore, I agree that the audit and SBI investigation do not support the filing of any criminal charges."
According to the District Attorney, Currie told investigators he did move from Rowan County to Bladen County and lived on land owned by his parents during his employment in Duplin County. He reportedly lived in Riegelwood, N.C., and initially paid for his own moving expenses.
"During a Duplin County school board meeting, the board voted to provide a moving expense reimbursement to Mr. Currie. Mr. Currie told investigators that he was surprised to find that both federal tax and state tax had been withheld from his moving expenses reimbursement," Hudson said.
Generally, moving expense reimbursements are not subject to state or federal taxation, he added.
After reviewing the material, the District Attorney chose not to pursue criminal charges and has closed the investigation.
"The SBI has limited resources and will not conduct a criminal investigation into mere allegations that a public agency possibly violated criminal laws without supporting evidence. Other than mere allegations, my office was provided no information to support any criminal violations to warrant further investigation," Hudson said. "Furthermore, I agree that the audit and SBI investigation do not support the filing of any criminal charges."
School and county officials declined opportunity to comment on the record about the investigation at this time.
The county school system currently does not have a chief financial officer. Joann Hartley left the position last month and the system has not yet hired a replacement.