State-financed group pays big bonuses; why?

State-financed group pays big bonuses; why?

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NE Partnership ripped in audit Dan Kane and J. Andrew Curliss, Staff Writers A state audit of a regional economic development partnership that serves northeastern North Carolina found little accountability for hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars spent on bonuses, consultant contracts and staff pay.

The audit, released Wednesday, also found that the partnership’s former president, Rick Watson, had a conflict of interest by seeking to work for a private project to develop an entertainment complex near Roanoke Rapids while continuing to lead the partnership. Watson resigned from the partnership last month.

North Carolina’s Northeast Partnership is the marketing arm of the Northeastern North Carolina Regional Economic Development Commission, which serves a 16-county region that stretches from the Outer Banks to Halifax County. It has received more than $4 million in state money over the past three years.

The audit said the boards that oversee the partnership had provided almost no oversight of the money entrusted to it by the public.

A spokesman for State Auditor Les Merritt said the findings are triggering audits of six other regional partnerships. The audit also could push lawmakers to cut funding or step up oversight. (more…)