TARBORO – A report released Tuesday by the N.C. State Auditor contends that more than $500,000 in public funds was inappropriately used and obtained by three former and current town employees.
Centered on the purchasing and expense reporting practices of former Tarboro Town Manager Sam Noble between 2005-11, the report also implicated a former town accounting clerk, as well as former Electric Department director and current Mayor Rick Page.
The report found that “over a six-year period, the former town manager made nearly $355,000 of purchases that exceeded the scope of his duties.”
In stating that Noble used town funds to pay for “equipment, travel and meals that were for personal use, had a questionable connection to Town business or were unnecessary,” the report contends he also “regularly failed to comply with town purchasing policies.”
The report noted that between July 2006 and July 2011, Noble was reimbursed by the town for more than $220,000 in equipment purchases that “did not appear to relate to his job as a town administrator.”
Among a long list of purchased items were shirts, coolers, gun holsters, wetsuits, marine equipment and jackets, as well as purchases from The Apple Store and Bed, Bath and Beyond.
Also reported among the purchases was “police equipment,” including handguns and ammunition, “that was not necessary to perform his duties.”
The report also contends that Noble received reimbursements of more than $100,000 in “unnecessary travel and meals.”
Violation of the town’s purchasing policies also were reported in that Noble “never” used purchase orders prior to making purchases and “preferred” use of his personal credit card – rather than a town credit card.
This was done, according to a former town department head’s testimony, so Noble could accumulate reward points.
In addition, the state’s investigation showed Noble “obtained more than $87,000” for life insurance premiums “without Town Council approval” by altering his contractually approved life insurance policy from whole life to universal life and raising premiums and death benefit payouts.
The report also found that an unnamed “office assistant in the accounting department” – identified later in the report as “wife of the current Mayor” – obtained more than $30,000 in unemployment benefits between 2010-12.
Page, the report said, in his former capacity as Electric Department director, “inappropriately received” almost $28,000 in reimbursements for health insurance premiums for his ex-wife after “submitting documentation asserting” the insurance was for him.
The report also stated all findings were referred to the State Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service, N.C. Department of Revenue and N.C. Department of Commerce, Division of Employment Security “for legal disposition as applicable.”
Page was unavailable for comment Tuesday morning, and Noble did not return telephone calls seeking comment before press time.
The town’s response said it would comply with report recommendations to seek reimbursement from individuals and pursue potential legal action to obtain misappropriated funds.