The new director of the State Employees Association of North Carolina announced Monday that the organization has hired an outside accounting firm to investigate allegations of financial improprieties by former director Dana Cope.
SEANC director Mitch Leonard said the association has hired Bond Beebe of Washington, D.C.
Cope resigned Feb. 10 after a News & Observer investigation into questionable spending on landscaping, flight lessons, entertainment and eyebrow waxing, among other items. At his direction, SEANC spent $109,000 with a landscaping firm that also has done extensive work at Cope’s Raleigh home; one of those checks, for nearly $19,000, was made out to a defunct computer company and justified by a phony invoice. The landscaping firm cashed the check.
Leonard said the new investigation should go farther than an internal investigation that has been harshly criticized by some SEANC members and SEANC district organizations.
“Despite our best efforts, the internal investigation perhaps did not go far enough and did not provide enough actionable information to make the necessary changes to ensure this will not happen again,” Leonard said in a statement. “For all of this, I am deeply sorry.”
Leonard’s announcement is an about-face for SEANC. After The N&O reported on Cope’s questionable spending, President Wayne Fish issued a statement saying the story was “not true.”
Fish did not cite any errors in the story but stood behind the findings of an investigation he initiated.
“The Executive Committee has met twice to discuss the investigation’s findings,” Fish said in the statement. “Both times it unanimously confirmed that there was no misappropriation of funds and no financial impropriety by our organization.”
Fish and SEANC have not responded to repeated requests for information about who conducted the internal investigation and what documents they reviewed.
The next day, Cope resigned, saying he had blurred the lines between his personal and professional lives.
On Monday, Freeman said she had escalated matters and asked the SBI to conduct a full-scale criminal investigation.
The SEANC Board of Governors met in closed session on Saturday. Members did not respond to questions afterward.
On Monday, SEANC spokeswoman Toni Davis did not respond to phone calls asking about the internal investigation and whether SEANC gave Cope any sort of severance package.