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Landis interim manager expects investigation to end in late summer

LANDIS — As the State Bureau of Investigation continues its probe into possible embezzlement by former town employees, interim Town Manager Kenny Isenhour on Monday urged residents to continue to be patient, saying he expects the investigation to last until late summer

The investigation, which started in February, includes Town Manager Reed Linn and former Finance Officer Ginger Gibson as subjects in the investigation. Both are alleged to have taken home salaries significantly more than was officially approved by the Landis Board of Aldermen.

“We want this thing over with, but it’s not within our control to speed this up,” Isenhour said at Monday’s Board of Aldermen meeting.

He offered insight into how the SBI operates differently than the police, saying it compiles all information before announcing any final charges. He said SBI agents have taken thousands of pages of documents, including some that were subpoenaed — adding that with subpoenas, the SBI can look at anything it wants to.

“I would not want them to do any differently,” Isenhour said.

Mayor Pro Tem Tommy Garver followed up by saying the SBI is very thorough and he is ready for the investigation to be over but he understands why it is taking a long time.

Because of the investigation, finding a new auditing service was a challenge, interim Finance Officer Roger Hosey said.

“We reached out to a couple different auditing firms and we frankly got no response from them because we are asking them to audit a year that has a SBI investigation,” Hosey said. “We’re asking them to audit a year that we know that there are problems in.”

Hosey proposed the town continue with Eddie Carrick CPA, based in Lexington.

Aldermen had concerns about using the previous auditor.

Hosey responded that because of the lack of options and talks with the Local Government Commission, the only option is to continue with Carrick. He said the commission expressed to him that it does not think the auditor was at fault. It’s not the job of the auditor to find fraud, Hosey said.

In other business:

• The board made its first budget amendments of the fiscal year, something that had not previously been a regular practice.

Aldermen agreed to transfer $150,000 from the Powell Bill fund to the general fund for street paving projects. They also agreed to appropriate $27,200 for equipment from the storm water fund.

• Alderman Seth Moore addressed controversy over the discontinuation of the overflow room and the addition of a live-stream for board meetings. Monday’s meeting was broadcast on YouTube, with 37 people watching at one point.

Moore said the board had not tried to figure out a way to suppress public comments. The overflow room was not effective, and the live-stream will allow for archiving recordings of meetings.

Mayor Mike Mahaley said he is available to talk any time to residents, showing a stack of business cards.

Resident Meredith Smith said closing the overflow room discouraged residents from coming to the meeting because they knew they wouldn’t be able to get in.

She also questioned letters sent to the Local Government Commission signed by Mahaley that addressed the town’s solutions to its poor finances. She asked whether the letters were written by Mahaley or by Reed Linn.

“At the end of the day, you are the top person in charge here,” Smith said. “Nobody can get higher than you in the town of Landis, so therefore we as the citizens deserve an apology. Your name was signed.”

None of the aldermen responded.

• Assistant Town Manager Brandon Linn gave an update on the paving of Fifth, Sixth and Davis streets. He said within the next month, the final paving in the Oaks of Landis neighborhood would be completed, as well.

• Hosey addressed a resident’s concern about the credit card fee for paying bills. He said the town would move to a system that has a revenue-neutral rate. The system will be in place in June.

• Martha Corriher was presented a proclamation that declared May 23-25 as Memorial Poppy Weekend.

• The board set a budget meeting for 5:30 p.m. on May 29.

• Isenhour said the town is continuing to evaluate the sewer system, which has stormwater going into it. He said the town is looking to do minor repairs itself and looking ahead to budgeting for larger repairs and applying for more state grants in the fall.

• Isenhour spoke about the death of Jordan Harris Sheldon, a Mooresville police officer who was killed Saturday. He said the death had a profound effect on the Landis Police Department and that the department is grieving.

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