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Rowan commissioners want answers from ABC board, but not resignations

By Jessie Burchette
jburchette@salisburypost.com
On a split vote, county commissioners defeated a motion asking for the resignation of the three members of the Rowan-Kannapolis ABC Board.
Commissioner Tina Hall, supported by Chairman Carl Ford, offered the motion citing the lack of profits, the board’s reluctance and refusal to provide public records and questions raised by auditors about deficiencies in financial accounting.
State ABC records show the local system is the least profitable in the state for systems of its size ó sales of $8 million annually.
Commissioners Chad Mitchell and Raymond Coltrain and Vice Chairman Jon Barber combined to defeat the motion.
But Mitchell repeatedly said at some point he may vote to seek the resignations.
Mitchell said the behavior of ABC officials has been unacceptable. He suggested a clash of personalities may have caused the problems between the two boards, adding, “We can’t have it.”
Mitchell argued for a face-to-face meeting between the two boards, where commissioners can let ABC board members know what is expected.
Mitchell blamed commissioners for not exercising more oversight over the ABC board.
He agreed with Hall that there are problems, but said at this point he doesn’t see any thing illegal or anything that merits calling for the board’s removal.
Mitchell went on to suggest that two officials Hall consulted be invited to a meeting with the ABC board and asked to provide advice on making the system more profitable.
Hall cited talks with Mike Herring, administrator for the N.C. ABC Commission, and Robert Brooks, executive director of the N.C. CPA Association.
She quoted the officials as saying its not hard to steal money from an ABC system because of the large amounts of cash.
Hall also said she talked with Bill Cowan, Rowan County’s former manager, Monday to ask if he got a copy of the 2007 ABC management letter as ABC officials contend.
She quoted Cowan as saying he didn’t remember the letter and that “We had trouble getting anything from them (ABC).”
“It’s not personalities, there’s history there,” Hall said.
Hall went through the four management letters, pointing to problems cited by the auditor, including $8,900 in employee reimbursements without receipts and other reimbursements for receipts in sealed envelopes.
She suggested the county may need to get specialized accountants and perhaps an SBI investigation.
Ford called the ABC board’s delay in releasing public records and its initial plan to charge he county 7 cents a copy unbelievable.
Mitchell agreed, saying the flow of information from ABC is unacceptable and the distribution of profits to the county in unacceptable.
Throughout, Mitchell argued that retaining the current members is the best way to find out what’s going on and how to repair problems.
The board tentatively scheduled a joint session with the ABC board for July 6.
The board unanimously approved a motion by Hall to change the salary of ABC board members to make it in line with other county boards.
ABC members currently get $100 per month, with the chairman getting $150.

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