RALEIGH – A critical audit of the North Carolina Rural Center has led to the resignation of the longtime leader of that agency Billy Ray Hall. The state funds of that agency have also been frozen.
Hall's announcement was made as a "retirement" but came less than 24 hours after Governor Pat McCroy called for Hall to step aside.
"Based upon the recent audit, I believe it is time for new leadership at the Rural Center in the roles of president and chairman of the board.
"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. These funds must be used to grow our rural economies and create jobs,” McCrory continued.
"I believe that new leadership will begin to address and fix the serious issues identified by the state audit."
The audit, and recent reporting by the Raleigh News and Observer, questioned some of the decisions made by the agency, including the handling of interest earnings, the verificati of job creation numbers and grant reporting requirements. There was also questions about the amount of compensation for Hall and other top center officials.
The audit also claims the center's top executives were overpaid when compared to the salaries of similar positions. The audit calls the $221,000 annual salary paid to president Billy Ray Hall as "not reasonable" and questions more than $241,000 in a special account to be paid to Hall if he leaves.
Some in the General Assembly have called for the center to be disbanded, and its mission be reallocated to other agencies.
The center promotes economic development in the 85 North Carolina counties that are defined as rural.