PRINCEVILLE — Although there was no action taken by the board and none of the controversy that has come to mark Princeville's town meetings over the past several months, there was smoke at the gathering of the town's politicians Monday night.
Literally, the meeting was interrupted by the strong smell of smoke. In quick response, Police Chief Joey Petway alerted Mayor Priscilla Everette-Oates about the situation and she ordered the building to be evacuated.
The Princeville Fire Department responded and discovered the source of the smoke to be a smoldering flower pot filled with dead foliage located on the steps of the town hall building.
Fire Chief Billy Boddie said smoke from the pot filtered into the building. For precautionary reasons, Boddie ordered his department to thoroughly investigate the building inside and out.
Before the evacuation was ordered, the board was preparing to go into a closed session, but the mayor — in the parking lot — recessed the meeting until 1 p.m. Tuesday. On Tuesday, the recessed meeting lasted more than three hours before the board returned and announced the meeting had been recessed again, this time to 5 p.m. today.
During Monday's meeting Everette-Oates accused the former administration for the town's current financial woes. She said the former administration left the current administration with a $129,000 North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) bill for the paving of the Forest Haven Community. Forest Haven was paved in 2007 under the administration of Mayor Delia Perkins. Commissioner Ann Howell, who was also a commissioner under Perkins, pointed out the town had agreed to pay $18,000 per year in installments. A letter written by LGC to Everette-Oates last week noted that a check for $18,000 to NCDOT had been written, but has not yet cleared the bank. LGC stated that the town had agreed to pay the total balance of the bill in December, but there are no funds available to follow up on the promise.
Everette-Oates asked town attorney Charles Watts, who attended the meeting via telephone, to look into setting up a meeting with NCDOT to ask the state agency to waive the bill. Watts is a member of the NCDOT board.
Commissioner Isabele Purvis-Andrews also asked Watts to look into retrieving $6,000 from former town manager Victor Marrow and $25,000 from former town manager Sam Knight. Knight was charged with misusing $25,000 of the town fund and was sentenced to jail. Marrow was allegedly overpaid $6,000 and was terminated in February after he refused to sign a modified contract.
One of the hottest topics of the night was perhaps Everette-Oates' brief discussion concerning $13,000 credit cards charges on her town card. Many of those charges are now being questioned by LGC. She said the charges were not listed in the final draft of the town's 2010-2011 audit. The draft audit had listed 133 questionable credit card charges. Everette-Oates said she produced the necessary documents and the auditor removed the items from the report.
"You didn't see anything because we had to prove to the auditor that everything that we did was town-related," she said. "But then you got the enemy on the other side that make it looks like somebody else. We have to bind up the enemy and we have to continue to pray."
LGC discovered several months ago that Princeville's finances were in dire need of repair and voted unanimously on July 30 to take over the town's finances despite Everette-Oates' opposition. In an effort to save money, LGC slashed the town's workforce to pay off some of the town's debt which now reportedly exceeds $222,000. Everette-Oates blames the town woes on demonic spirits and the previous administration.
"I want you all to understand that the spirit of witchcraft has been in this town for a long time," she said. "And for those who knows the prayer of righteous needs to be praying because when you are in the seat, they try to put things on you that is really not true.
"I'm like (President) Obama. Obama inherited all of these debts from President Bush and these are debts that we inherited."
Perkins has said on several occasions that when she turned the mayor's gavel over to Everette-Oates in 2009, the town was solvent.