City official: SBI continuing investigation into missing money

Published 12:10 am Monday, February 22, 2016

By Amanda Raymond

The State Bureau of Investigation is still investigating the misappropriation of funds incident that involved a city employee, according to City Manager Lane Bailey.

During the public comment section of last Tuesday’s Salisbury City Council meeting, John Morison talked about the case.

According to previous Post articles, Joe Elliott, a customer service clerk with the city, was fired for violations of the city’s policies early last year. The violations included misappropriation of city funds, unsatisfactory work quality and failure to follow department procedure.

The article stated that $1,500 was missing, but Zack Kyle, assistant city manager, at the time said the city was not sure how much money was missing.

City officials discovered the money was gone after an internal review of the city’s Customer Service Division, which handles payments from Fibrant and water and sewer customers.

In one Post article, the city stated it would send Elliott an invoice for the amount and Elliott had 30 days to reimburse the city. It also stated the city would withhold Elliott’s final paycheck to reimburse the city, and if Elliott did not pay back the rest, the city would take legal action.

In a later article, the Post reported that the State Bureau of Investigation was looking into the missing funds. The city did not press charges against Elliott, but John Sofley, who at the time was the interim city manager, was reported as saying if the investigation proved Elliott did take the money, the city would then press charges.

John Morison brought up the missing funds incident at the city council meeting. He urged the city to take action and keep citizens informed about what was going on with the case.

“The citizens of Salisbury deserve transparency and accountability on this matter,” he said. “If nothing’s done here, it leaves the door wide open for the next person who wants to misappropriate city funds.”

After the public comment session, City Manager Lane Bailey said the investigation was still ongoing and that it was “in the SBI’s court.”

“I apologize for the time, but these things take time,” he said.

The incident occurred before Bailey was hired as Salisbury’s city manager.

Bailey said it would be inappropriate for the Salisbury Police Department to look into a case involving city funds and that there is regular communication with the SBI.

When asked for more information about the case, Communications Director Linda McElroy said in an email that the city could not comment on any aspect of the incident because it is “a personnel and possible criminal matter.”

She said more information may be available once the investigation is finalized.

Also during the public comment session, Dee Dee Wright thanked the Salisbury Fire Department for their its during the snowy weather.

She also said she did not know that the council could take action during a retreat.

During the council’s planning retreat, the council approved a motion to increase its contribution to the salary of the co-principals at Knox Middle School to replace a portion they were no longer able to receive from a Catawba College donor.

Wright said she thought there should have been input from citizens before the council made its decision.

Contact reporter Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222.