Manteo officials discuss response to Auditor’s report

By on December 14, 2019

Mayor Owens says the “public has a right to know” about the state auditor’s report. (Edward L. Mullins/File photo)

Manteo town officials met on Tuesday evening in an hour-long closed session to discuss the town’s response to a state auditor’s report that concludes its 18-month investigation of a $50,000 verbal agreement related to the town’s Dough’s Creek dredging project.

On Wednesday, Dec. 11, Mayor Bobby Owens confirmed that the meeting centered on what the town will do to address the auditor’s report that it recently received. But he declined to provide further details, pending release of public information.

Owens said, however, that he expects that the town to release some information about the report in the next few days.
 

“I want everything above board,” the mayor said. “I think the public has a right to know.”

In the notice posted last week on the town’s website, the special Dec. 10 meeting of the Manteo Board of Commissioners, held prior to the regularly-scheduled Manteo Planning Board meeting, concerned consultation with an attorney about “handling or settlement of a claim, judicial action, mediation, arbitration, or administrative procedure.”

No official action that would require a public record was taken during the special meeting, according to town clerk Becky Breiholz.

As of Wednesday, Dec. 11, the report from the North Carolina Office of the State Auditor had not been published on its website. The agency’s policy prohibits a public release of information about investigations other than the final report.

An investigator from the auditor’s office had notified the town in July of 2018 that he would be coming to Manteo that month to interview nine former and current town officials. Then Town Manager Kermit Skinner confirmed that the auditor was interested in learning more about an oral contract that involved then Planning and Zoning Board Member Lee Tugwell, and Commissioner Hannon Fry.

Tugwell had been acting as the local representative for the Klimkiewicz family, the owner of the land where dredge spoil from the Dough’s Creek project was deposited temporarily. Town records show that a verbal agreement had been reached for the town to pay $50,000 for use of the property.

Records also show that Tugwell submitted three invoices to finance officer Shannon Twiddy, one for $25,000, and two for $12,500 each. Twiddy said in an email to the auditor’s office that there was no record of a signed contract with Klimkiewicz.

Tugwell, who owns a construction contracting company in Manteo, has also served as town mayor and as a town commissioner. He submitted his resignation from the Manteo Planning and Zoning Board on Nov. 20.

The Dough’s Creek dredging project, contracted for $648,901 to Carolina Marine Structures in Powells Point, began on Nov. 27, 2017. The 120-day project included removal of sand from channels in the boat basin and harbor, storing the spoil during the project on the Klimkiewicz property, and then trucking the material to the town’s wastewater treatment plant, where it was placed in constructed berms.

Shortly after the project was completed, however, the town-owned sand — valued at about $15,000 — was mysteriously trucked from the town property to an unknown location, an action that Skinner said was never authorized by the town. The matter has yet to be resolved, but current Manteo Town Manager James Ayers said in November that discussions have been held with the contractor. 

Several efforts to reach Ayers this week for comment were unsuccessful.


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Comments

  • surf123

    Standard small town shady government dealings.

    Wednesday, Dec 11 @ 4:53 pm
  • sandflea

    $15,000 of sand equals about 770 cubic yards of sand. That’s about 77 dump truck loads. Where do you “hide” 77 dump truck loads of sand? Lol @ “nothing to see here” Manteo officials!

    Thursday, Dec 12 @ 8:28 am
  • RAJ

    “Owens said, however, that he expects that the town to release some information about the report in the next few days. I want everything above board,” the mayor said. “I think the public has a right to know.”

    Then why only released “some information”. Release the entire report.

    Thursday, Dec 12 @ 8:32 am
  • Manteobxr

    Purty pile of sand on Skyco corner. Bet the cameras on the fancy liquor store in Manteo had some footage of the sand escaping! Just sayin…..

    Friday, Dec 13 @ 5:54 pm