‘We take no joy in this’: Landis interim manager offers updates on SBI investigation

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 5, 2019

LANDIS — Interim Landis Town Manager Kenny Isenhour spoke about the State Bureau of Investigation probe and changes the town has gone through after the announcement of the embezzlement case during Monday’s Board of Aldermen meeting.

Last month, the town announced that the SBI was opening an embezzlement investigation. Town Manager Reed Linn, Finance Officer Ginger Gibson and an unnamed third person are the subjects in the case. Linn’s and Gibson’s resignations accompanied the announcement.

Isenhour, who is the town’s police chief, was appointed interim town manager, and Roger Hosey, the deputy police chief, was appointed interim finance officer.

“We take no joy, none of us, Hosey and I especially, take any joy in this investigation,” Isenhour said. “We don’t like what the town is going through. We don’t like what the citizens are going through. This thing is going to stretch out for a while.”

Although Isenhour could not offer specific details about the investigation, he promised residents — who filled Town Hall and overflowed into the fire department next door — that town officials will provide answers when they can.

Isenhour did say the ongoing investigation goes back through multiple boards, several mayors, and 10 years of audits and budgets.

“At this time, no current or former board members and no current employees are implicated in this investigation,” Isenhour said. “The current board has been very supportive, and they have assisted us in this investigation.”

“Landis is in a temporary turmoil. We’re going to come out of it,” Isenhour said.

But the interim town manager wasn’t the only one who spoke about the investigation Monday night.

Resident Dennis Isenhour questioned portions of the budget, including $65,000 spent on marketing for the light fund. He asked the board and the staff why the town spent money on marketing for a service that all town residents have.

The interim town manager responded by saying it’s something being looked into as part of the investigation and that he could not comment further.

Janice Lipe commented on the spending waste for a live cam and a light that stays on at restrooms at the pool at night.

Resident Meredith Smith commended the aldermen for the transparency section on the town website that lists years of budgets, audits and employees’ salaries and told them she would like to see this continue. Smith recommended the board host a town hall meeting to allow residents to ask questions about how the town got to where it is today.

“We, as the citizens, we don’t have the answers because if we come up here, nine times out of 10 what we’ve been handed is incorrect,” Smith said. “I know you guys have been handed incorrect information. People over here have been handed incorrect information. So, moving forward with the transparency, I do believe that’s something that everybody wants is to know what we can and can’t do.”

Martha Corriher recommended the town create a strategic plan to set five-year goals.

Alderman Seth Moore said he would also like to see a committee formed to deal with town finances and present recommendations to the board at meetings.

In other business:

• Gary Flowers, of Municipal Engineering, spoke about the wastewater asset and inventory assessment.

Flowers said the Upright Street lift station sub-basin is in poor condition. 

The town could apply for funding through the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality in the spring and fall. The estimated cost of the project is $1.8 million.

“I would recommend it,” Flowers said. “You’ve got a problem, and your rates are already ridiculous.”

DEQ could fund the project through a grant or could fund it partially through a grant and a no-interest loan.

• Martha Corriher and Commander Tim Nason were awarded a proclamation declaring March as American Legion Centennial Month.

• Alderman Tommy Garver was appointed as the alternate for the Electricities Board of Commissioners to replace former Town Manager Linn. 

• Assistant Town Manager Brandon Linn told residents the trash truck broke down Monday and would pick up trash today.