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NC Rural Center stops severance for ex-president

RALEIGH (AP) — Directors of a taxpayer-funded nonprofit agency created to help North Carolina’s rural communities on Monday voted to freeze payment of a $241,000 severance to its founding president, who stepped down after criticism of his salary and the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center’s oversight of public money.
The center’s board of directors voted to stop severance payments to Billy Ray Hall unless authorized by the full board. Hall had inquired through an attorney when he would receive the money.
The board decided to gather more information about Hall’s severance package and any potential tax implications before deciding whether to give it to him.
Hall resigned this month after a state audit found his $221,000 annual salary “unreasonable,” the non-profit did not adequately oversee the $25 million in state funds it received annually, and that claims of jobs created were not verified.
Gov. Pat McCrory called for Hall’s ouster after the audit. State lawmakers cut off the group’s funding, shifting rural development efforts to existing state agencies. The rural center also uses federal money to provide grants to encourage businesses and build infrastructure in 85 counties.
The rural center’s board meeting Monday was its first since the audit, Hall’s resignation, and the state funds cutoff.
The 47-member oversight group decided to appoint a smaller committee that will be able to make decisions about the center’s finances over at least the next month. Board chairwoman Valeria Lee, who had said Hall’s severance was deserved, was expected to appoint a five-person committee to act on the board’s behalf as assets are shifted to the state Commerce Department.

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