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Landis dumps documents on its website under new ‘transparency’ tab

LANDIS — Hoping to provide answers to its residents, the town of Landis updated its website Tuesday night with a section titled “transparency.”

Under it, the town provides audits dating back to 2009; budget documents; the salaries of town employees, including former Town Manager Reed Linn and former Finance Officer Ginger Gibson; and years of correspondence between Landis and the Local Government Commission, which performs financial oversight across the state.

Linn and Gibson and an unnamed third person are the subjects in a State Bureau of Investigation probe into allegations of embezzlement.

Mayor Mike Mahaley said the investigators released the information on the town’s website, but he could not specify who the investigators are.

Meanwhile, the salaries — Linn making $69,077 and Gibson making $58,937 for the 2018-19 fiscal year — are accompanied by a footnote stating “approved salary amounts, actual amounts unknown, pending investigation/forensic audit.” Linn’s salary included his jobs as town manager and fire chief, which was approved by the Board of Aldermen.

Town Attorney Rick Locklear said the footnote acknowledges the salary amounts are in dispute.

When dealing with embezzlement cases, Locklear said, the total salary may include fringe benefits that supplement an employee’s salary and include items such as a town car.

Locklear said he was surprised the town hadn’t published this information before, saying having the information accessible will save time for employees filling public-records requests.

Mahaley echoed Locklear, saying the town should have been providing the information on its website, including audits, yearly salaries and budgets.

Mahaley said he plans to release more information that residents have asked for once the town gets the OK from the investigators, adding the requests are ready to go. Among other things, residents have previously asked for information about utility rates.

“We’re wanting to be transparent with all of our citizens,” Mahaley said.

The Salisbury Post made a public-records request on Feb. 4 ahead of the Board of Aldermen meeting. The request asked for the personnel file of Linn, emails from and to Linn, and the resumes of both Linn and Ginger. The mayor has said the investigators have delayed the Post receiving this information, and he was unclear when the newspaper would receive it.

On the transparency page, there is a brief note stating, “The following documents are being shared to provide the public with transparency into town finances and operations.”

In the Local Government Commission correspondence, which is nearly 200 pages, there are years of letters from the state questioning the town’s finances and delays in submitting financial reports. The letters document state concerns dating back more than a decade.

A March 2007 letter signed by Sharon Edmundson, director of the fiscal management section, states, “The town continues to have serious financial problems which the town’s governing board should address immediately.” The letter goes on to say the town’s audited financial statements were four months late, the town was not prepared for “unforeseen emergencies or opportunities” in its general fund, and the town had unauthorized expenditures and unbudgeted transfers.

Other correspondence includes a June 2011 email from Ken Wease, senior accounting and financial management adviser at the N.C. Department of State Treasurer. It states, “The town continues to have problems with over expenditures of their budget. This has been an issue we have addressed over the past several years. So the statement in the town’s response ‘the town will continue to monitor the funds closely and make budget amendments whenever necessary’ does not give much assurance.”

The town had received a letter most recently in September from the Local Government Commission about its concerns about the town’s finances. As of Tuesday, the commission was still reviewing the town’s audit report for the 2017-18 fiscal year.

The town’s new transparency page can be accessed by visiting townoflandis.com/transparency.

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