After a state audit accused Four-County Services’ director of mismanagement, the agency’s board met on Tuesday and fired the administrator.
When the board meets again a week later, it may have a tougher task — dealing with its own alleged misdeeds.
Four-County Executive Director Richard Greene was fired during a special meeting of the board of directors in Red Springs Tuesday night. The meeting was in response to an audit of Four-County performed by the state Department of Health and Human Services office of the Internal Auditor, which labled the agency a “high risk.”
The audit was conducted last year after 18 allegations were made against the Laurinburg-based nonprofit. The audit said investigators were able to substantiate 15 of the allegations, including that the agency misspent or misused resources and violated its own nepotism and conflict of interest polices.
The audit also found evidence of Greene’s misuse of his agency vehicle for personal trips and that Four-County business partners had sponsored Greene in professional fishing tournaments. He was also accused of concealing his marriage to Four-County’s fiscal manager, Annie Rothwell.
Board member John Alford of Laurinburg called the decision to fire Greene regrettable.
Greene served as Four-County’s executive director for 25 years. Four-County deputy director Kim Clark will serve as interim director.
“It was a decision that the board felt was necessary at this time; it was regretful but it is what it is,” said Alford, who also serves on the Scotland County Board of Commissioners. “It’s nothing personal on my part. Mr. Greene is an honorable man and I respect him a lot. He’s done a lot for this board and the communities which he has represented and served over his 20 plus years as director.”
Alford blamed the apparent abuse of power on poor communication.
“I don’t think there was any real intention of [Greene’s] to violate any regulatory guidelines,” said Alford. “I think some of it could have been a communication problem between the board and him and sometimes we didn’t give him the guidance he should have had.”
But the audit suggests that the board also failed to follow established policies.
According to its bylaws, “regular compensation to all members for their service on the board is not permitted.” However, the audit said that board members were paid $75 to attend meetings, with all 42 members receiving a total of $15,600 during 2012.
The audit also alleged that the agency had hired a board member’s son who was later fired for drinking on the job.
According Four-County policy manual, “no person shall hold a job while he or a member of his immediate family serves on the board, policy council, or committee.”
Board member Hubert Sealey said that most of the members were simply unaware of many of the concerns reported in the audit. Sealey, a Robeson County commissioner, has been on the Four-County board for two years.
“I had no idea and I think a lot of the board had no idea about some of these things that have since come to light,” Sealey said. “But I can guarantee you that this board will be fully aware going forward.”
Board member Robert Price suggested that part of the problem was a lack of organization on the board’s part.
“We do not need to have strung-together meetings,” Price said Tuesday night. “This is very important, it needs to be given appropriate discussion and attention, and we don’t need for people like me to have to sacrifice my livelihood to come here to a meeting that is called at a special time. We need to get down to doing things in an orderly fashion.”
The board will meet at 6 p.m. on Tuesday in Elizabethtown to discuss the proposed changes to Four-County’s bylaws and vote whether or not to submit them in time to meet the March 25 deadline suggested by DHHS.
Three Raleigh attorneys are helping the board draft a response to the allegations and recommendations in the DHHS audit. “The purpose of these resolutions is to make sure that our auditing procedures are in line and revised in some cases so that they will stand scrutiny and will serve us better as an organization,” said board Chairman Jimmy Cummings. “I believe that we will have a report to give that will be acceptable to Raleigh and that we will all be happy about it.”
The board took no action in the matter of a civil lawsuit facing Four-County and two of its employees, John Wesley and Eric Pender. Wesley and Pender have been accused of threatening to withhold Section 8 housing benefits from several female clients unless they agreed to engage in sexual activity.
Four-County administers 16 Head Start programs as well as housing and weatherization assistance in Scotland, Robeson, Hoke, Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, and Pender counties.