Auditor finds Ocean Isle mayor acted inappropriately in real estate purchase

Published 11:59 pm Thursday, January 27, 2022

Associated Press

RALEIGH — The mayor of a North Carolina coastal town acted inappropriately when her real estate company purchased the town’s former police station site in 2018, according to a report from the state auditor.

The nearly 200-page report from State Auditor Beth Wood’s office outlines how Ocean Isle Beach Mayor Debbie Smith, Town Administrator Daisy Ivey and the Ocean Isle Beach Board of Commissioners each are accused of acting inappropriately during the sale process, news outlets report.

An investigation found in February 2018 that a town resident was interested in buying the former police department building and land. The following month an appraiser hired by the board valued the property at $460,000.

At a June 2018 closed session meeting, Ivey told the board the interested resident did not respond after Ivey tried to contact him about the offer amount. According to the report, that resident told investigators that he never received a response from the town.

Two months later, a realty company owned by Smith and her brother offered the town $460,670 for the property, and in October 2018 the board voted to accept that offer.

The findings of the investigation were referred to District Attorney Jon David to determine if there is sufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges. Meanwhile, the report recommends the board, mayor, legal counsel, and town administrator take government training “to help ensure an appropriate control environment exists.”

Smith said the sale discussion has been in the works for more than 10 years and the process was conducted in public. She questioned the timing of the complaint which led to the investigation, and said she thinks it’s odd that it came in an election year.