Raleigh business incubator needs a closer look

Raleigh police have begun to review bank records belonging to a former assistant city manager who was an advocate for and connected to the ill-fated Raleigh Business and Technology Center. The center, a nonprofit, was supposed to promote business development in Southeast Raleigh and was getting $162,000 annually from the city’s economic development funds.

But a city audit in 2013 found unexplained cashier’s checks and payments to tenants as well as missing cash and other evidence of mismanagement. The city evicted the center from a building owned by the public and pulled funding.

One of those who fought that move was retired assistant city manager Lawrence Wray, who had overseen the city’s connection to the business incubator. Now his bank records are being reviewed and, according to a warrant, Wray is suspected of depositing $25,000 in loans intended for the incubator into his personal account.

Wray says he doesn’t recall depositing loans to his account and that if anything happened it was because Bob Robinson, the center director, asked him to do it. The warrant says Robinson said Wray “committed improprieties while serving as a board member” of the center.

Auditors discovered that Wray’s family members had done paid work for the incubator.

This investigation will be ongoing. The city, which didn’t offer much oversight of the center for too long a time, needs to find out what happened before continuing with efforts to push Southeast Raleigh business development.

In the future, projects that begin with a worthy idea need to be closely monitored by City Hall and ultimately the city manager. Good intentions, when public money is involved, need to be carried out with good management.