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Governor Calls For New Leadership At NC Rural Center

Billy Ray Hall
NC Rural Center

Governor Pat McCrory is calling for new leadership at the NC Rural Economic Development Center.  This comes after a scathing audit of the non-profit.  In a statement released Wednesday, Governor McCrory pretty much called for Rural Center President Billy Ray Hall and Board Chairwoman Valeria Lee to step down.  Both were instrumental in the Rural Center’s inception in 1987.

The fallout comes after a new state audit of the Rural Center which shows a failure of the organization to provide proper oversight of millions of dollars in grants.  Auditor Beth Wood says it’s disappointing.

“Not only is it that monies are not being monitored, so you want to make sure that people are not getting the money and not doing what they are supposed to with.  The other side of it is, is that the money was supposed to be used to build infrastructure to entice businesses to come in, or allow businesses to come in, or the monies were supposed to be passed down to create jobs," said Wood.

Wood says the Rural Center is allocated more funds from the state Commerce Department than any other organization.  The audit also questioned the numbers used to substantiate Hall’s annual salary of $221,000 a year. 

In a statement from the Rural Center, Hall said, "The Rural Center is being a good steward of state funds...and we are currently making improvements to address those issues."

Still, Mc Crory said in his statement, "At a time when rural areas of our state are suffering the most, we must ensure that we are using our limited funds by the most effective, efficient and transparent means."  He goes on to say, " I believe that new leadership will begin to address and fix the serious issues identified by the state audit."

Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said in a statement, "The audit reinforces my belief that the Rural Center should receive no taxpayer funds in the state budget."

Leoneda Inge is WUNC’s race and southern culture reporter, the first public radio journalist in the South to hold such a position. She also is co-host of the podcast Tested and host of the special podcast series, PAULI. Leoneda is the recipient of numerous awards from AP, RTDNA and NABJ. She’s been a reporting fellow in Berlin and Tokyo. You can follow her on Twitter @LeonedaInge.
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