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Selma Drops Baggy Pants Discussion

(Right) Selma Town Councilman William Overby is interviewed by the media follow Tuesday night's town council meeting. WTSB Photo

The Selma Town Council Member who wanted the issue of baggy pants discussed at Tuesday night’s meeting asked that it be removed from the agenda before the meeting began.

Councilman William Overby said he became concerned when he would drive down Selma streets and see people walking on the sidewalks with their pants low and underwear exposed.

Overby said his concern over the issue was not geared toward any specific group of people. 

Selma isn’t the first North Carolina municipality that’s wrestled with the saggy pants issue.

The City of Dunn, in Harnett County, dealt with banning saggy pants in 2012 and the City Council, on the recommendation of their City Attorney, decided not to adopt a saggy pants ordinance.

Mayor Oliver said Town Attorney Chip Hewett agreed with the Dunn City Attorney and raised several problems with being able to enforce a baggy pants – it may not have been a legitimate use of government power, it may violate the 14th Amendment and would violate people’s free speech, and the ordinance would difficult to enforce.

Overby said that after reading the Dunn City Council’s minutes on the issue, he decided such an ordinance would violate people’s rights and asked the council to take it off the table.

Couple Charged With Crimes Against Nature
A Johnston County woman has been charged with not one, but two unthinkable crimes.  Warrants have also been obtained against her boyfriend. 

Dana Michelle Revell, 27, (top right) of Stockbridge Drive, Selma was arrested Tuesday and charged with attempted crimes against nature and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

According to copies of arrest warrants obtained by WTSB, and information obtained from law enforcement authorities, Revell allegedly attempted to have sex with a Great Dane dog. 

In an unrelated incident, Revell was allegedly having sex in bed with her boyfriend, while the couples 18 month-old daughter was directly beside them as they performed various sexual acts.

Warrants have been obtained against Revell’s boyfriend, Christopher Leonard Vaughn, 37, (lower right) of New Creech Road, Selma.

Vaughn allegedly assisting Revell with her attempt to have sex with the Great Dane.

The 18 month-old was not present when the incident with the dog allegedly occurred.  Both offenses reportedly occurred sometime in April or May of this year.  

Once located, Vaughn will also be charged with attempted crimes against nature and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.  Both charges are misdemeanor offenses.

Sheriff’s Captain A.C. Strickland said the incidents had been under investigation since June 18th. The Department of Social Services is also investigating, Captain Strickland told WTSB. 

SUV Crashes Into Convenience Store

A Smithfield was arrested for allegedly driving while impaired after crashing his SUV into a convenience store Wednesday morning.

It happened around 2:30am at the BP store on US 70 at Peedin Road in Pine Level.

According to WTVD, Teo McPhatter of Smithfield was stopped at the gas pumps, took off, and then crashed into the store.

One person inside the store suffered minor injuries, but the driver was not hurt.  McPhatter was charged with DWI and damage to real property.

$2.14 Million Bid Awarded For River Dell Elementary Addition
The Johnston County Board of Education has agreed to spend just over $2 million to build a 12 classroom addition at River Dell Elementary School.

The project was included in the November 2013 bond referendum. Bonds have been sold and funds are now available to start this project.

Daniel & Daniels Construction was awarded the contract after submitting the lowest bid of $2,140,000. Other bidders were WIMCO $2,159,747, Muler Construction $2,220,000, and T.A. Loving Company $2,343,500. WTSB File Photo

Police Reunited Missing Girl With Family

A 5 year-old girl is safe at home after she apparently wondered away from her residence early Wednesday. 

Around 5:40am, a citizen found a small girl walking on Swift Creek Road near Weatherspoon Lane.  Wilson’s Mills Police were contacted.

Officers said the girl did not know her name or where she lived. 

Around 7:15am, police were able to locate the family and return the child to relatives.  Police said the girl wondered away without anyone at her home noticing.

The child was not harmed and Police Chief David Hess said no charges will be filed. 

Selma To Eliminate Insurance Coverage For Future Retirees
The Selma Town Council will meet in special session on Friday to vote to eliminate health insurance for future retired employees.

The policy change will only affect new hires. Retired employees and those already working for the Town will be grandfathered in and continue receive the insurance benefit.

Town Clerk Claudia Greenfield said medical coverage costs the Town $7,000 per year per retiree. Right now, Selma pays insurance benefits to 25 retirees.

Greenfield said there are 11 Town employees who been employed 18 or more years that could retire at any time.

Mayor Cheryl Oliver said the Town could not take this benefit away from employees who are so close to retirement.

The called meeting will be held Friday at 1 p.m. in the Jernigan Building located 106 East Anderson Street. The meeting is open to the public.

Clayton Fire Department To Become Medical First Responders
The Clayton Town Council is expected to approve a Medical Responder agreement between the Clayton Fire Department and Johnston County when they meet on September 2nd.

The Clayton Fire Department will participate in the Johnston County Emergency Service's medical responder program.

Under the terms of the deal, the Clayton Fire Department will respond to medical emergencies within their jurisdiction. Oftentimes, first responders can arrive on the scene before an ambulance and begin providing medical care.

Clayton Public Information Officer Stacy Beard said this agreement will “forever change the way Clayton firefighters do their jobs and will likely double their call volume.” 

Right now, Beard said the fire department respond to fires, car wrecks, fire alarms and hazmat situations.
The only medical calls Clayton firefighters currently go to are cardiac arrests.  

With this new agreement, Beard said local firefighters will now respond to a much broader range of serious medical calls.

Beard said it’s going to be a great partnership with EMS and provide the people who live in Clayton with much better service. 

19 other fire departments in Johnston County have similar agreements and now Clayton will join them. 

Beard said Clayton firefighters have been training up for months to get their proper certifications. 

Benson Police: Teen Stole Wallet Containing $5,000 In Cash, Jewelry
A Benson teenager is facing felony larceny charges for her alleged connection to a stolen wallet.

Shannon Nicole Clark, 19, of Barefoot Street was arrested for reportedly taking part in swiping a wallet mistakenly left behind by a customer at a local fast food restaurant.

A woman reported to Benson Police she left her wallet at McDonald’s. When she went back to retrieve the wallet, an employee informed her someone had taken the wallet off a table a few minutes earlier and left.
The wallet contained cash, a wedding ring, a diamond band, — more than $5,000 worth of items altogether the victim told police along with personal information.

During the investigation, officers reviewed restaurant security footage and verified the events. According to reports, the described suspect was with a group that included Ms. Clark.

The woman who actually took the wallet has not yet been identified, however the incident report notes that Ms. Clark, along with three other suspects, spoke with the woman in tan shorts and even held the door for her after the wallet was taken.

Ms. Clark was charged with larceny and conspiring to commit larceny. She was taken to the Johnston County Jail and placed under a $25,000 secured bond. Benson Police said more charges are possible as the investigation continues.


Wilson’s Mills Police Officer Recognized For Life Saving Actions

(Left to right) Officer Chris Corbett is congratulated by Police Chief David Hess for his heroic efforts during Monday night's Wilson's Mills Council Meeting.

A Wilson’s Mills Police Officer was recognized at the Wilson’s Mills Town Council meeting on Monday night. 

On August 11th, heavy rains quickly caused Main Street to flood with rising waters estimated between four to five feet in depth.

Officer Chris Corbett was patrolling the area and observed a vehicle drive into the water and start to submerge.  Corbett quickly radioed for help from the Wilson’s Mills Fire Department.  Emergency workers were able to remove Tiffany Prather and her child from the rising waters that had forced them to stand atop their submerging car.

The quick actions of Officer Chris Corbett and members of the Wilson’s Mills Fire Department likely saved the life of the mother and her child. 

“Had Officer Corbett not been actively patrolling in the midst of the treacherous storms in Johnston County that night, the outcome of this event may have been tragic,” said Police Chief David Hess. “The community of Wilson’s Mills is blessed to have a dedicated staff of officers who put their heart into caring for the people they are sworn to serve and protect.”

Chief Hess presented Officer Corbett with the Meritorious Conduct in the Line of Duty Commendation and was awarded a Meritorious Conduct uniform medal.

Arrests Made In Sexual Assault, Gun Theft From Clayton Home

Johnston County deputies have charged a man with sexually assaulting a juvenile while another suspect was stealing guns from the same home.

The incident was reported on July 22nd near Clayton.

Phillip Anthony Rawls, 22, (top right) of Blue Pond Road, Clayton was arrested Monday and charged with statutory rape and accessory after the fact of larceny of a firearm.

Cortaz Quemal Lucas, 17, (lower right) of Dennis Way, Clayton was charged last Friday with two counts of felony larceny of a firearm.

According to Johnston County Sheriff’s Captain A.C. Strickland, Lucas stole the weapons.  Rawls was charged with the sexual assault of a 15 year-old girl at the home.

Authorities did not release any additional details about the case because the incident involved a minor.
Rawls was booked into jail under a $200,000 bond. Lucas was held under a $50,000 bond.

Neuse Charter To Hold Ribbon Cutting For New High School
Neuse Charter School will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony for its new campus on Friday, September 5th at 11:00am.
The Ribbon Cutting event will take place at the new high school building located at 909 Booker Dairy Road. 

Neuse Charter School opened seven years ago and has seen tremendous success in its brief history.  The new facility will have an enrollment of 750 students in grades K-12 with a waiting list of over 425 applicants. The school has been recognized numerous times during its history as both a North Carolina School of Distinction and a North Carolina Honor School of Excellence. 

In 2011, Neuse Charter School, Johnston County’s only charter school, completed the purchase of a 26 acre campus site and gymnasium utilizing financing from Self-Help Credit Union and loan guarantees from the USDA, thereby saving Johnston County tax payers millions of dollars in school facility costs. 

In 2013, 12 additional acres of land were secured to complete the schools master plan objectives. 

North Carolina charter schools do not receive state or local funding for land, buildings or other facility needs for their students.  In addition to the normal operating cost, Charter Schools in North Carolina must also cover all facility related expenditures solely out of the per pupil allotment allocated to the school.

Neuse Charter is a public, free-tuition school open to any child who is a legal resident of North Carolina. The school’s mission is to provide a challenging learning environment, to keep expectations high and to make sure all students achieve their maximum potential.  The school offers an international studies and foreign language focus, in addition to the North Carolina Standard Course of Study. Currently, Neuse Charter offers full elementary, middle and high school programs.  

$4.2 Million Bid Awarded For New Princeton High Gymnasium
WIMCO beat out five other bidders to win a $4.2 million contract to build a new Princeton High School competitive gymnasium.

The project will be funded from the November 2013 bond referendum approved by voters.

Chief Financial Officer Patrick Jacobs told the Johnston County School Board that Hite Associates compiled the specifications for this project and it was put out for bids.

The bids were received and opened at Facility Services on August 6th.

The other vendors and their base bids were: Bordeaux, $4,282,000; T.A. Loving, $4,407,000; Muler Construction, $4,432,935; HG Reynolds, $4,645,000; and Daniels & Daniels, $4,965,000.

County Explores Options To Increase Trash Revenue
Johnston County is losing money in the trash collection business and has begun to explore alternative methods to generate revenue.

A long-range plan from the county’s Department of Solid Waste Services was unveiled at the August County Commissioners meeting.

Current disposal fees charges to individuals and businesses can sustain the landfill operations but won’t sufficiently increase the reserve fund, officials said.  But money is being lost in other areas.

The county’s yard waste program operates at a loss of $25,000 per year. Recycling operates at a loss of up to $230,000 per year and the convenience sites operate at a loss of up to $1.1 million per year.

One plan being considered is a countywide recycling fee of $5.00 on all residents, businesses and institutions that pay property tax in the County including municipalities.

Also proposed is instituting an availability fee of $50 for all residences, businesses and institutions that pay property tax and don’t already have a solid waste fee assessed by a town and eliminate the decal program.

The Board of Commissioners have scheduled a public hearing on Tuesday, September 2nd at 6:00pm to receive feedback

Clayton Schedules Public Hearing For New Internet Sweepstakes Cafe
The Town of Clayton will be soliciting input from the public on whether an Internet sweepstakes café is right for the town?

The Clayton Town Council will hold a public hearing next month on whether or not to grant RNC Entertainment-Internet Café a conditional use permit.

The applicant is Tony Ro and the owner is 813 Town Centre Boulevard Holdings LLC.

If approved, RNC Entertainment will be located in the old Blockbuster building located at US 70 Business West next to Capital Bank.

Mayor Pro-Tem Michael Grannis (pictured left) said during a council workshop Monday night his concerns were safety and whether or not the software used at the Internet café would be in compliance with state law.

North Carolina has passed legislation against Internet sweepstakes, but unscrupulous businesses "are very good at adapting to whatever law that you write," state Attorney General Roy Cooper told USA Today.

After Internet sweepstakes cafes began popping up in the state, the legislature in 2010 passed a ban on them. The law, however, got mired in court, becoming effective when the state's Supreme Court unanimously upheld the measure in 2012.

Now the sweepstakes industry in North Carolina has come up with a new idea called "pre-reveal software," Cooper said. It allows people to buy Internet time or a telephone card or whatever product is being offered and the prize is revealed before the game is even played.

The public hearing will be held Tuesday, September 2nd at 6:30pm at the Town Hall located at 111 East Second Street.


Suspect Charged With Assaulting Store Manager With Bleach, Car
Smithfield Police arrested a woman Monday after said allegedly assaulted the manager at a local business.

Around 12:46pm, officers were called to the Dollar General at 829 South Brightleaf Boulevard.

Police Lt. R.K. Powell said the suspect, Tabitha Nicole Johnson, 25, of Smithfield pulled up in front of the store in a no parking area. The manager, Joseph Stengele, reportedly asked Johnson to move her car.

Johnson went into the store and reportedly threw a bottle of bleach at Stengele before leaving.

When the manager went outside to write down the license plate number on Johnson’s vehicle, she reportedly struck him as she tried to leave.

Johnson was charged with assault and battery. She was given a $5,000 bond and a court date of September 15 on the charge.

Police said the store manager was not injured during the incident.

5-Year Plan Approved For Smithfield’s Public Utilities
The Town of Smithfield has adopted a Five-Year Capital Improvement Plan for Public Utilities.

The Town Council approved the plan this month as part of its application for the Small Cities Community Development Block Grant to improve its water treatment plant.

Public Utilities Director Ken Griffin said the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources awards points to each applicant in the highly competitive grant process.

Griffin said any funding for a capital project must be approved by the Town Council and that a five-year Capital Improvement Plan is only a projected roadmap of where the department believes future capital expenditures will be needed.

South Johnston Graduate Receives Agricultural Award

(L to R) South Johnston High agriculture teacher Kendall Parker congratulates Brenton Parker on his 2014 Dekalb Award. Contributed photo

Brenton Parker, a 2014 South Johnston High School Graduate, has been awarded the 2014 Dekalb Agricultural Accomplishment Award. 

The annual award, established in 1947, honors outstanding high school seniors across the U.S. for their excellence in scholarship, leadership, and agricultural work experience. 

Brenton’s agricultural teachers at South Johnston are Ashley Long, Candace Parker, Cindy Adams, and Kendall Parker.

Summer Living History Program Saturday At Bentonville Battlefield
The sounds of artillery and musket fire will once again ring out at Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site. The annual summer living history program, “A Day in the Life of a Civil War Soldier,”will be held Saturday, August 23rd.  Costumed living historians will demonstrate how soldiers made meals, maintained their weapons, equipment and uniforms, trained for battle, withstood the weather, and much more. This free program will feature musket demonstrations at 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 2:30 p.m. and artillery firings at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m.

Visitors can visit a Civil War soldier’s camp and discover what role the enlisted man played in battle.  Reenactors from the 27th North Carolina Troops will be on site to explain and answer questions about military life during the war. The living historians will also give uniform and equipment talks.

Artillery demonstrations will feature a 3-Inch Ordnance Rifle, a typical Civil War field piece.  According to one witness, the artillery fire at the battle of Bentonville was so heavy that it “literally barked the trees, cutting off limbs as if by hand.” Dozens of these guns were used during the 1865 battle.

The Battle of Bentonville, fought March 19-21, 1865, involved 80,000 troops and was the last Confederate offensive against Union Gen. William T. Sherman.  Bentonville Battlefield interprets the battle and field hospital, where many Confederates were left in the aftermath.

Bentonville Battlefield is located at 5466 Harper House Road, Four Oaks, NC 27524, three miles north of Newton Grove on Harper House Road.  For more information call 910-594-0789.

Teenager Arrested For Drunken Driving
A Four Oaks teenager was arrested for driving while impaired during a traffic stop Saturday morning.

Deputies stopped a car for speeding in the 6700 block of Highway 96 South of Four Oaks, according to Johnston County Sheriff’s Captain A.C. Strickland.

The driver, identified as Ashley Alexander Justice, 19, of US701 South, Four Oaks, registered 0.12 on the Breathalyzer, above the legal limit of 0.08 in NC, Captain Strickland said.

Justice was charged with DWI, driving after consuming alcohol under age 21, and speeding.  He was released on a $2,500 bond. 


Deputies Raid Narcotics Flea Market
A Johnston County man is accused of renting out space on his property to allow drug dealers to set up shop and sell narcotics.

Sheriff’s deputies raided a location known as the Blazing Saddles on Barnes Lake Road, off Highway 39 North late-Friday.

Thurman Edward Stancil, 68, (left) of Barnes Lake Road, Middlesex and three other accused drug dealers were arrested on the scene. A fourth person was arrested on an outstanding warrant from Wayne County.

”Thurman Stancil was allowing his property to be used as a distribution point for drug dealers who would pay a daily cash fee to set up shop and sell drugs on his property,” said Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell. 

“This criminal enterprise has been under investigation by detectives for an extended period of time,” Bizzell told WTSB News on Monday. “Detectives were able to infiltrate this criminal enterprise that Stancil had been managing, where we were making undercover buys from the drug dealers who were partnering with Stancil in a conspiracy to sell large amounts of illegal drugs.”

Sheriff Narcotics Captain A.C. Fish said, “A search of the property yielded large quantities of crack cocaine, marijuana, and prescription pills with a street value in excess of $10,000. Also seized were thousands of dollars in proceeds from the illegal drug sales.”

In addition to Stancil, three others were arrested. They include: Kenneth Wade Lodge, 50, Jerome Bernard Neal, 30, both of Middlesex, and Quinton Jamar Ellis, 34, of Zebulon.

Authorities said the investigation was ongoing and more arrests are anticipated.

More Than 34,000 Students Expected For New School Year
School officials expect about 34,096 students will report to Johnston County Schools when classes begin next Monday, August 25th.

Teachers and staff reported to work August 18th. The Academic Enhancement Calendar Schools and Early/Middle College have already started.

Public Information Officer Tracey Peedin Jones said the 10th day of school will determine student enrollment for the 2014-2015 school year.

263 buses will transport students this year. But that number could change as the school year begins and bus routes are established.

The cost for school lunches are $2.15 for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Ninth graders and up will pay $2.30.

School office hours and student class hours vary by school.

The school system's total 2014-2015 operating budget has not been determined because Johnston County has not received its initial state allotments since the state budget was recently approved. WTSB File Photo

Dollar General Makes Bid For Family Dollar Stores
Tennessee-based Dollar General announced plans Monday to attempt to buy Family Dollar. 

Recently, Dollar Tree, based in Chesapeake, Virginia, said they were launching an attempt to buy Family Dollar, which is based in Matthews, NC. 

Dollar Tree had offered $74.50 per share for Family Dollar.

Now Dollar General has raised the stakes and will offer $78.50 per share, $4 more per share, and has said it will pay a $305 million fee owed to Dollar Tree if that deal fell through.

If Dollar General’s bid to purchase Family Dollar is accepted, it would create a combined company with nearly 20,000 stores.

To lessen antitrust concerns, Dollar General has said it would be willing to sell up to 700 stores. 

Family Dollar’s merger with either Dollar General or Dollar Tree is likely to cause concern for Wal-Mart.  

Kayakers Rescued From Neuse River
Johnston and Wayne County authorities came to the aid of two kayakers who had fallen into the water Saturday afternoon.

Emergency crews from both counties were called to the Neuse River near the Johnston-Wayne County line and located the kayakers a short time later.

The two victims were taken to the Ferry Bridge Road river access where they were evaluated by Wayne County emergency workers and released.

The Johnston County Sheriff’s Office Water Rescue Team, Bentonville Fire Department, Grantham Fire Department, and Wayne County EMS assisted. Contributed photo

Fire Destroys Mobile Home
The Red Cross is assisting a Clayton resident whose home was destroyed by flames Saturday afternoon.

Firefighters from Clayton, Cleveland and Wilson’s Mills arrived on the scene of a mobile home fire on Cruz Jeffries Road off Ranch Road to find flames coming through the roof.

Watch video here

Firemen were able to quickly contain the flames. Luckily the resident escaped the flames without any injury.

Officials are looking into whether an air conditioning unit may be to blame. Photo and video courtesy JoCoFire.com


Substance Abuse Expert To Discuss Marijuana Legalization
Dr. Manish Fozdar, a Raleigh neuropsychiatrist, will be a guest on WTSB AM-1090 on Tuesday at 3:15pm.

Dr. Fozdar is an expert in the area of substance abuse and the long-lasting effects that drugs and alcohol have on the brain.

He will also discuss his expert opinion on the legalization of marijuana.

Dr. Fozdar will be interviewed by Carl Lamm and Lynda Carroll.

Listen Tuesday at 3:15pm to AM1090 WTSB for Dr. Manish Fozdar.

Princeton Teen Robbed
Warrants have been obtained against a suspect who allegedly robbed a Princeton teenager Saturday afternoon.

The teen was on Cherry Street in Smithfield when he was reportedly robbed of his flip flops, hat, and $20 in cash.

Smithfield Police Lt. R.K. Powell said the victim sustained minor injuries during the incident. Officers were able to identify a suspect in the robbery and warrants were obtained. Police did not release the name of the suspect pending there arrest.

Smithfield Police Investigating Two Sex Crimes
Smithfield Police are investigating two offenses involving children, but tell WTSB News the crimes are not related.

On Friday, police were notified by the Department of Social Services about an alleged incident involving the inappropriate touching of a small child.  Police Lt. R.K. Powell said a detective has been assigned to the case.

On Sunday, police were notified about a second unrelated incident where a suspect sent inappropriate text messages to a juvenile female. A detective has also been assigned to that case.

Man Charged With Kidnapping Mother, 2 Children

Sampson County deputies have charged a man with kidnapping a woman and two children from a home on Friday.  The victims and the suspect were found hours later in Durham.

Deputies said Alex Fernando Meza Acosta of Durham went to an address on Shaun Lane near Clinton and allegedly kidnapping Ebelin Barahona, her 9 year-old daughter, and 4 year-old son.

Authorities said Acosta was a former boyfriend of Barahona and the father of the two children.

Durham Police located Acosta and the kidnapped victims in the suspect’s apartment. The woman had minor injuries but the children were not physically harmed. 

Acosta is in the Sampson County Jail facing numerous charges.

Sheriff Jimmy Thornton said he was pleased the situation ended in a peaceful manner.    

Jani-King Wins Bid For Smithfield’s Janitorial Services
The Town of Smithfield has awarded its 2014-2015 janitorial contract to Jani-King. The Raleigh-based janitorial service beat out six other bidders for the contract with a bid of $2,859 per month.

The bid award was presented by Public Works Director Lenny Branch (pictured right) at the August town council meeting.

Even though Jani-King is based in Raleigh, it has local owner-operators in Johnston County one of whom will be assigned to the Town of Smithfield.

The other bidders were Ace Cleaning Service, $3,632 per month; Coverall, $4,135 per month; Pro Cleaning Solutions, $4,275 per month; A&B Cleaning, $4,310.17 per month; Barnes Cleaning, $4,900 per month and Autry Cleaning, $5,464.48 per month.

Jani-King will provide janitorial services in the Town Hall, Operation Center, Police Department, Public Works and Water Plant.

Selma Tables Contract To Study Sludge
The Selma Town Council has tabled a decision on whether or not to contract with an engineering firm to study sludge.

Town Manager Jon Barlow said that for many years the accumulated sludge was pumped out of the Town's water treatment plant and sent into the sewage collection system for treatment at the Johnston County wastewater plant.

Barlow said the County informed the Town it must seek alternative methods to dispose of the sludge.

Three times per year, Barlow said the sludge accumulates to the point that it must be removed from the plant.

Just this past week, Barlow said the Town employed the services of a waste hauler to pump and truck the sludge from the plant to the Johnston County landfill. The estimated annual costs will be between $15,000 to $20,000 per year.

Before soliciting bids, the Town Council decided to confer with former Johnston County Public Utilities Director Tim Broome.  The suggestion came from Johnston County Commissioner Ted Godwin who was in attendance at the council meeting.

$55,000 Worth Of Equipment Stolen In Clayton
Clayton Police are asking for the public’s help locating $55,000 worth of stolen equipment.

During the early morning hours of Monday, August 11th, someone stole a Caterpillar skid steer and 18 foot flatbed trailer off Highway 42 West near Johnston Medical Center.

The 2014 Caterpillar 289-D (image of an identical machine pictured) and 2003 Contrail trailer likely had to be towed away by a large truck. Anyone who saw any suspicious activity in the area is asked to contact Clayton Police Detective B.R. Temple at 919-553-1599. 

Clayton Firemen Extinguish Dumpster Fire
The Clayton Fire Department quickly extinguished a dumpster fire Sunday on US70 Business beside the former Bermuda Triangle building.

Clayton Police also responded to the scene.

Watch video here

No injuries were reported. Officials have not said how they think the fire began. Photo and video courtesy JoCoFire.com


Sheriff’s Candidate Was Subject Of State Investigation
A Kenly man running as a write-in candidate for Johnston County Sheriff was the focus of a investigation by the state commission that certifies law enforcement officers, WTSB News has learned.

Last year, the North Carolina Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission, which certifies NC law enforcement officers, ordered Jim Davenport’s law enforcement officer certification be suspended for up to five years.  The suspension was then set aside on the condition he not violate any state or federal law, ordinance or rules of the state agency for that 5 year period.

The penalty was imposed because of Davenport’s misrepresentations of information on his law enforcement certification. 

According to public documents, between February and April 2009 while Davenport was employed by the General Assembly Police Department, he applied for law enforcement jobs with the Smithfield, Raleigh, Kenly, and Rocky Mount Police Departments.

The state said Davenport misrepresented his Personnel History Statements, called an F-3, four times and provided one inaccurate Background Information Form, called an F-8, to NC law enforcement agencies. 

Specifically, Davenport falsely represented a 2002 out-of-state mall security job and his termination from that position.

According to the documents obtained by WTSB News, Davenport told the commission he “did not remember the mall security job until a friend had mentioned it to him.” He also gave contradictory evidence when testifying at his hearing, the report said.

The Commission concluded that Davenport knowingly misrepresented his previous employment in order to gain employment opportunities.

Davenport apologized to the commission for making an “inadvertent mistake” on his applications. He stated his mall security termination was not for misconduct.

“I am not concerned that this will harm my chances of becoming Sheriff,” Davenport told WTSB News. “I am human and have made mistakes in my life and probably will make more.” He called the issue, “…an administrative error in paperwork.”

“I did not intentionally, maliciously or purposely falsify anything. I failed to fill in something on my F­3 form on a master copy and copied it and submitted it to agencies without realizing the mistake,” Mr. Davenport said.

“I'm quite sure that everyone has done this in their lifetime. Example: leaving your name off of a homework assignment and submitting it. I believe the public can trust a law enforcement officer that was alleged to have done something and cleared of it,” Davenport said.

He could have appealed the February 2013 commission ruling within 30 days to Superior Court but did not. 

The report said, “Though (Davenport) repeatedly held himself out as a veteran officer, his testimony at the hearing presented a lack of knowledge of the duties expected of a North Carolina law enforcement officer.”

Davenport’s was employed by the Rocky Mount Police Department from 2009 to 2013. He is currently an auxiliary officer with the Pine Level Police Department.

Davenport has been critical of Sheriff Steve Bizzell in public statements but said he is not running a negative or smear campaign.  “I ask questions as a law enforcement officer and see problems that the average citizen wouldn't see.”

Davenport failed to collect the 4,328 signatures required by June 27th, by the Johnston County Board of Elections, to have his name placed on the November 4th ballot for Johnston County Sheriff.

However, he did submit 100 signatures of voters to have a blank line under Sheriff Bizzell’s name on the election ballot where voters may write Davenport’s or anyone else’s name. Facebook photo

Link To NC Criminal Justice February 2013 Board Minutes

Link To NC Criminal Justice Commission Ruling

School Superintendent: State Budget Is Good For Teachers
Johnston County School Superintendent Dr. Ed Croom (pictured) said Tuesday that for the most part the new state budget is good for Johnston County teachers.

The budget was approved by the General Assembly and signed last week by Gov. Pat McCrory.

Dr. Croom made his comments during the school board meeting. He said the raise given to public school teacher’s averages 5.5 percent.

He said teachers will not lose longevity or tenure. Dr. Croom also said he does not foresee any Johnston County School employees losing their jobs.

Chief Business Officer Robin Little said even though less funding was allotted for teacher’s assistants that Johnston County Schools is still hiring personnel to fill its vacancies.

Cable TV Installer Accused Of Stealing $2,700 Ring From Customer

A cable TV installer is accused of using his position to enter people’s home to steal from a Johnston County man.

On June 22, a Stancil’s Chapel resident though his cable TV installation would be trouble free.

But after the contractor left his home, he told Johnston County sheriff’s deputies a $2,700 diamond ring was missing.

Sheriff’s Captain J. Caldwell said detectives questioned 42 year-old Russell Wright Jr. of Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh about the theft.  Wright reportedly told officers he did not take the ring.

But following a criminal investigation, and after consulting with the Johnston County District Attorney’s Office, detectives charged Wright on Wednesday with felony larceny.

He was given a $20,000 bond. 

Wright did not work directly for the cable provider, Time Warner Cable, but was employed by Noble Resources, an authorized Raleigh contractor to install services for the company.

WTSB spoke with Regional Manager Jeff Thomas who called the situation “unfortunate.” Thomas said Wright has been suspended pending the outcome of the court case. 

Fire Destroys Abandoned House
An abandoned house went up in flames Friday morning in northern Johnston County.

The call came in around 4am that a house on Morgan Parkway, off Thanksgiving Fire Road, was ablaze.

Crews from the Archer Lodge, Corinth Holders, and Thanksgiving Fire Departments responded to the scene. Johnston County EMS stood by as firefighters battled the blaze.

The Johnston County Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the cause. 

Former Parks & Rec Director Honored For 30 Years Of Service

(L to R): Smithfield Mayor John Lampe reads a proclaimation honoring Tim Johnson for 30 years of service to the Town of Smithfield. WTSB Photo

Family, friends and co-workers gathered to pay tribute to Smithfield’s former Parks and Recreation Director Tim Johnson.

Johnson was honored by Mayor John Lampe, Town Manager Paul Sabiston, and the Smithfield Town Council at the August Town Council meeting for 30 years of service to the Town.

Johnson resigned July 31st to become Grants Manager of the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF).

Mayor Lampe presented Johnson with a plaque and proclamation approved by the Town Council.

Even though Johnson will no longer be an employee with the Town of Smithfield he still plans to live in Smithfield and volunteer on the Smithfield Fire Department. WTSB Photo

Engineering Contract Awarded For Selma Sewer Upgrades

The Selma Town Council Tuesday awarded the Wooten Company a contract for engineering services for the Noble Street Interceptor Rehabilitation Project.

Fees paid to Wooten will be paid in accordance to a fee schedule set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The total cost of the project is expected to be $1.3 million and the engineering fees for Wooten are estimated to be $162,278.

Town Manager Jon Barlow (pictured right) said the next step in the process is to begin the design phase. After the design phase, the project will be put out to bid. Construction is not likely to begin before Spring 2015.

The Noble Street project will replace 1,953 linear feet of 18-inch sewer lines with 963 feet of a 30-inch and 990 feet of 24-inch lines.

Also included will be the replacement of seven manholes, refurbishing four other manholes and other miscellaneous sewer system improvements.

Clayton Woman Charged With Card Fraud

A 22 year-old Clayton woman was charged Monday with using a relatives debit card to make purchases in Smithfield.

Smithfield Police Lt. R.K. Powell said the suspect, Cheryl Lynn Medlin of Willow Branch Lane, used the debit card to make two purchases at Wal-Mart and two purchases at Food Lion.

Medlin was arrested by Johnston County deputies on eight Smithfield Police warrants. Medlin is facing 4 counts of identity theft and 4 counts of obtaining property by false pretenses. All the charges are felonies.

Bail was set at $200,000.  

Employee Accused Of Misusing Company Gas Card
Clayton Police arrested a 28 year-old man Tuesday for allegedly stealing from his employer.

Police said Miquel Angle Hernandez (aka Elias Hernandez) of Lombard Street, Clayton used a company gas card at a convenience store on Highway 42 to fill up his personal vehicle. The fuel was valued at $125.00

Hernandez was working for ARS Rescue Rooter of Raleigh at the time of the alleged incident, which was reported to police on July 21st.

Hernandez was charged with one felony count of larceny by an employee. He was booked into the Johnston County Jail under a $10,000 bond.

Benson Man Charged With Break-In

Following a 9 week investigation, a Benson man has been arrested on charges he broke into the home of an elderly Four Oaks woman.

Sheriff’s detectives charged Truman Lee Talton, 37, of W. Watson Road, on Wednesday with felony breaking and entering and felony larceny.

On June 15, a break-in was reported at the home of the 73 year-old victim on Allen’s Crossroads Road.  A checkbook was stolen and a check was later used to pay for a $170.33 auto insurance bill, according to sheriff’s investigators.

Talton was charged with felony breaking and entering and felony larceny. Bail was set at $40,000.


Teen Held In Rape Of 12 Year-Old Girl
A Greene County teenager was arrested Wednesday for the alleged sexual assault of a Johnston County juvenile.

The incident reportedly involved a 12 year-old female and occurred in the Micro area.

Seventeen year-old Malik Trey Lanier of Snow Hill was charged with first-degree rape by detectives with the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office.

Investigators did not disclose how the suspect knew the victim.

Lanier was confined in the Johnston County Jail under a $250,000 bond. 

Two Dogs Rescued From Burning Home

Emergency workers were able to rescue two dogs from a burning home near Selma Wednesday afternoon.

The blaze broke out at a home on Carmil Drive, off Live Oak Church Road north of Selma. The fire was so intense, smoke could be seen as far away as Smithfield.

Crews were able to rescue two animals from the home, which sustained heavy fire damage.

Click here to watch video

The Johnston County Fire Marshal’s Office is currently investigating the cause.

The Selma, Thanksgiving, and Wilson’s Mills Fire Departments responded to the scene along with Johnston County and Selma EMS.

No injuries were reported.  Photo and video courtesy JoCoFire.com

School Board Approves Personnel Changes
The Johnston County Board of Education approved a number of personnel changes at their monthly meeting on Tuesday.

Twelve assistant principals received two-year contracts and four others were transferred to new schools.

The following assistant principals were given two year contracts effective Friday, August 15th: Archer Lodge Middle – Timberly Verona Harrington; Benson Elementary- Sandra Robertson; Benson Middle – Tracy Vannurden; Clayton Middle – Thomas J. Presti; Cleveland High – Tara J. Thompson; Corinth Holders Elementary – Faitha Batten; Corinth Holders High – Timothy D. Dugan; Meadow School – Paige Avery Barnes; Polenta Elementary – Jennifer McClure; Powhatan Elementary – Jamie L. Tyler; Princeton High – Jeremy H. Barefoot; and West Smithfield Elementary – Mogie Reddy.

The following assistant principals were transferred: D. Lee Hudson – from Powhatan Elementary to Polenta Elementary; Elizabeth Phillips – from Benson Elementary to West View Elementary; Sarah Reynolds – from Polenta Elementary to Smithfield Selma High; and Kristen Williams – from Smithfield Selma High to McGee’s Middle.

In other personnel changes, two year contracts were given to employees at the Central Office. Stephanie Leonard – Director of LEA Curriculum Projects and Danah Miller – Coordinator for Read to Achieve.

Tabitha Lee was also named an Assistant Finance Officer.  

The Board unanimously approved the recommendations made by Superintendent Dr. Ed Croom.

Smithfield Police Officers Recognized For Earning Certification

(Top right) Smithfield Police Chief Mike Scott (left) and Mayor John Lampe (right) present an Advanced Law Enforcement Certification to Officer Donna Currin. (Lower right) Chief Scott and Mayor Lampe present the same certification to Officer Thomas Lee. WTSB Photos

Two Smithfield Police officers were recognized at the Smithfield Town Council meeting for earning their Advanced Law Enforcement Certification.

Officers Donna Currin and Thomas Lee received their certification from the North Carolina Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission.

Police Chief Mike Scott said the two officers joined 13 other members of the Smithfield Police Department that have earned this specific recommendation.

To earn their Advanced Certificates, Chief Scott said Currin and Lee had to surpass several law enforcement thresholds, including a Bachelor’s degee, at least six years of law enforcement experience and over 480 hours of continued law enforcement training.

Prison Guard Accused Of Inappropriately Touching Female
A local prison guard has been arrested on charges he inappropriately touched a female.

The guard, Charlie Walter Paylin, 43, of Brook Street, in Clayton is employed at Johnston Correctional Institution in Smithfield.

According to NC Department of Public Safety spokesperson Keith Acree, Paylin has temporarily been reassigned to Central Prison in Raleigh but would not say why.     

Paylin was arrested by Clayton Police at his home Tuesday night and charged with sexual battery, a misdemeanor.
According to the arrest warrant, the victim, a Raleigh woman, said on June 10th Paylin inappropriately touched her.

The warrant was obtained by the victim on August 11th, more than two months after the alleged incident occurred.

The warrant did not say where the alleged incident occurred.

Paylin was released on a $1,000 bond pending a September 2nd appearance in Johnston County District Court. 

Man Wanted In Two States Arrested At I-40 Rest Area

Johnston County deputies arrested a fugitive wanted in two states Monday morning at the I-40 Rest Area near Benson.

Officers responded to an early morning call about a disturbance at the eastbound rest area between a man and woman. 

Sheriff’s Lt. A.R. Benson said Terrance K. Taylor, 33, of Fayetteville was traveling back to Fayetteville when he got into an argument with his girlfriend.  As the woman tried to dial 911, Taylor allegedly took the phone away from her.

Deputies were notified and arrested Taylor for assault, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and interfering with emergency communications.

After doing a routine wanted persons check on Taylor authorities learned he was wanted by authorities in New Jersey for possession of narcotics within 500 feet of a public housing facility. He was also wanted in Virginia for possession of marijuana and conspiracy to distribute marijuana.

Taylor was confined in the Johnston County Jail without bond pending extradition.

Pair Charged With Breaking Into Home Of Deceased Woman

A woman was checking on the home of her deceased mother Monday in Johnston County when she reportedly found two burglary suspects inside. 

Johnston County deputies said the two suspects fled from the home on Ridge Road, near the Johnston-Harnett County line, before they arrived but were arrested a few hours later.

Misty Dawn McBride, 39, and Christopher Patrick Luther, 40, both of Jeep Lane, Angier were charged with felony breaking and entering. McBride was also charged with possession of stolen property for allegedly having a stolen license plate on her vehicle. 

McBride was given a $55,000 bond and Luther a $20,000 bond.  

Suspect On Probation 18 Days Rearrested For Alleged Child Abuse
A Johnston County woman convicted July 24th for stealing an air conditioning unit from a home in her neighborhood and sentenced to 36 months probation has been re-arrested.

24 year-old Jessica Ann Armstrong was arrested Monday for misdemeanor child abuse involving a 4 year-old male child.  It comes just 18 days after her sentencing and release from custody.

Lt. A.R. Benson with the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office said the child was not Armstrong’s, rather the child of an acquaintance.  The incident involved “injuries to the buttock” according to Lt. Benson.  Armstrong was released on a $1,000 bond a short time after her arrest Monday.

Armstrong was first arrested July 12th for allegedly stealing an air conditioning unit from a foreclosed mobile home near her residence on Sunray Drive, Clayton, according to Sheriff’s Captain J. Caldwell.  Deputies said the stolen AC unit was found in the back of a Jeep at her address.

Armstrong was still in custody 12 days later when she appeared before Chief District Court Judge Andy Corbett on July 24th. She was found guilty of misdemeanor larceny and damage to property. She was ordered to pay restitution to the victim and remain on probation for 36 months.  

The alleged abuse incident was reported just 9 days later on August 2nd.

Johnston Man Charged In Wayne County Robbery

A Johnston County man has been arrested for a July robbery in Wayne County.

Wayne County deputies said on July 28th a victim said they were assaulted and $146 worth of items taken.

On Wednesday, authorities announced the arrest of Lee Scott Schuch, 43, of Reedy Prong Road, Newton Grove.  Schuch was charged with common law robbery and given a $15,000 bond.

According to a press release, the stolen property was recovered during the investigation.    

Groundbreaking Held For New North Johnston Middle School

Participating in groundbreaking ceremonies for the new North Johnston Middle School on Tuesday were (top photo left to right) County Manager Rick Hester, Commissioner Ted Godwin, Commissioner Tony Braswell, School Board Member Peggy Smith and School Board Member Keith Branch. (Center photo) School board members Donna White, Mike Wooten, Butler Hall, and Micro Mayor Jim Wiesner. (Bottom right) Superintendent Dr. Ed Croom addresses the crowd during the ceremony. WTSB Photos

It was a great day for Johnston County and the Town of Micro.

That’s how Johnston County School Superintendent Dr. Ed Croom described the groundbreaking Tuesday for the new North Johnston Middle School.

A large crowd of government and community leaders, school staff and ordinary citizens gathered at the school’s construction site located in Micro off Highway 301 on Oil Company Road.

“This is a great example of county cooperation,” Dr. Croom said as he cited the team effort of Johnston County Schools and Johnston County Commissioners.

School Board Member Butler Hall delivered the invocation and prayed that the new school will be a place “where students are nurtured, loved and cared for.”

School Board Chairman Larry Strickland said that while it had taken a long time for this day to come, it was a goal Johnston County Schools had for the northern end of the county for a long time.

Strickland thanked the Johnston County voters who supported the referendum last November for making the new school possible.

Commission Chairman Jeff Carver described the new North Johnston Middle School as a win-win for everyone.

The new school should be ready for students by August 2015.

It will replace the existing North Johnston Middle School on Main Street in Micro. That facility will be converted to an elementary school.

In April, Johnston County Commissioners approved the $377,128 land purchase for the new North Johnston Middle School.

At January’s Board of Education meeting, the school board executed its option to purchase the land from property owner Leland Eugene Batten Jr.

Bordeaux Construction, of Durham won the construction bid for the new North Johnston Middle School. The cost will be $17.4 million.

Participating in the ground breaking ceremony from left to right were: County Manager Rick Hester, Commissioners Ted Godwin and Tony Braswell, School Board Members Peggy Smith, Keith Branch, Donna White, Mike Wooten and Butler Hall, Micro Mayor Jim Wiesner, Commission Chairman Jeff Carver, School Board Chairman Larry Strickland, School Superintendent Ed Croom and Register of Deeds Craig Olive.

Man Accused Of Trying To Murder Ex-Girlfriend

Garner Police have arrested a man they said tried to murder his former girlfriend.

Police said the woman was assaulted by her former boyfriend as she arrived at her home late Monday. 

Manuel Enrique Santana Jr., 22, of Raleigh allegedly waited for the victim, Guadalupe Garcia, to arrive. She was then stabbed in her head and back.  She was treated and released at the hospital for non-life threatening injuries.

Santana was arrested on Tuesday and charged with attempted murder.

According to a copy of the arrest warrant Santana “…did attempt to kill and murder Guadalupe Garcia by laying and waiting for her to come home and then stabbing her in the head and back.”  

Woman Charged With DWI In Courthouse Parking Lot

Smithfield Police arrested a Clayton woman for driving while impaired Tuesday afternoon in the parking lot at the Johnston County Courthouse.

Around 5:06pm, Police Lt. R.K. Powell said officers received several calls about suspicious activity in a vehicle. Police said they found 20 year-old Olivia Leanne Creech of Freezor Court, Clayton in the car with the keys in the ignition. Also reportedly found was a small amount of suspected marijuana and prescription pills.

Police charged Creech with driving while impaired and two counts of possession of a controlled substance.

Officers allegedly seized 18 syringes, a spoon, metal can, and 4 pill containers from Creech’s car, which was towed from the scene.

According to court records, Creech was scheduled to appear in Johnston County Court on Tuesday for two January 2014 traffic charges – unsafe passing and speeding in a school zone. Court officials said Wednesday they did not have information about the outcome of Creech’s cases.

Creech was taken to the hospital where her blood was drawn as part of the DWI charge, Lt. Powell said. She was given a $5,000 bond and a September 23rd court appearance, according to police arrest records.

Creech also has pending unrelated court appearances for reckless driving, assault, trespassing, damage to property, and possession of a controlled substance charges, according to Johnston County court records.

Veteran Memorial Committee Wants To Be Included In Archer Lodge Budget

(Left) Saundra Freeman, Chairperson of the Archer Lodge Veteran Memorial Committee, gives an update Monday night to the Archer Lodge Town Council on the progress of the group. WTSB Photo

Archer Lodge’s Veteran Memorial Committee wants to be included in the Town’s budget.

Council Member Mark Wilson, a longtime supporter of the memorial, and Committee Chairperson Saundra Freeman addressed the Town Council at Monday’s meeting.

The tentative plan is for the memorial to stand on unused land next to Town Hall on Buffalo Road. The goal has been to pay for the memorial with donations, including corporate gifts.

Freeman proposed that the Memorial Committee’s fund, if the Town Council approves, be administered by Town Clerk Jean Overton.

“To this point, all of the committee’s expenses have been out of pocket,” Wilson said.

Wilson said the committee hopes the memorial can be built for less than $18,000. He said that including the Veteran Memorial Committee in the current budget might require a budget amendment.

Overton said it might also be possible to pull funds for the Veteran’s Memorial from the Town’s fund balance or its general fund.

The next meeting of the Veteran Memorial Committee is Tuesday, August 26th at 7:00 p.m. in the Town Hall.

Harrison Center's First 60 Days Are A Huge Success

(Left) Neal Davis, Executive Director of Community and Senior Services, told the Selma Town Council Tuesday night the Harrison Center for Active Aging has been a huge success. WTSB Photo

The first 60 days for the Harrison Center for Active Aging in Selma have been a huge success.

Neal Davis, Executive Director of Community and Senior Services of Johnston County, gave an upbeat report Tuesday night to the Selma Town Council.

The construction of the Harrison Center building is complete and 98% of grant and matching funds have been expended with the final expenditures expected to take place by the end of September.

Davis told Mayor Cheryl Oliver and the Town Council that in June individuals signed up for activities 633 times. In July, that number climbed to 1,042 sign-ups.

The first Line Dance class had eight participants. Davis said the class is so large that it's been divided into two classes, one with 20 participants and the other with 8 participants.

Mayor Pro-Tem Jacqueline Lacy told council she's enrolled in one of the Line Dance classes and enjoys it.

Davis said one of the first participants who came to the center is 90 years old and hasn't missed an exercise class. She stated her doctor was shocked when she told him about her exercise regimen and said the Senior Center was a “gift of God” for her.

The Harrison Center's first computer class has been an outstanding success, Davis said. The eight participants are successfully navigating Microsoft Word and the Internet. There are other 30 people on the waiting list for the computer class.

In July, the Harrison Center served 294 hot meals inside the dining room. Volunteers are now delivering between 850 to 1,000 meals per month from the Harrison Center.

In partnership with the Selma Parks and Recreation, the Harrison Center has created a Selma Travel Club for monthly trips across the state. The first will be a trip to the North Carolina State Fair in October.

Davis said the Harrison Center has added a full-time Program Coordinator and has a total staff of eight people. The state has approved the Harrison Center for Active Aging as a “Multipurpose Senior Center.”

Mayor Oliver called the Harrison Center a “true success story.”

Smithfield Seeking $2.6 Million For Water Plant Improvements
The Smithfield Town Council has approved a resolution to seek a $2.6 million grant to improve the water treatment plant.

If approved, the funds will be used to improve the raw water intake at the plant.

Public Utilities Director Ken Griffin (pictured right) made the presentation to Mayor John Lampe and the Town Council.

This was the second of two public hearings required to apply for a Small Cities Community Development Block Grant.

The Community Development Block Grant is a federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program that provides communities with resources to address a wide range of unique community development needs.

The grant monies are administered by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

A preliminary report was prepared in March by the Wooten Company.

Griffin said the preliminary review of the grant criteria indicates the Town of Smithfield should receive a favorable score for this highly competitive grant program.

Griffin said the Town’s proposed 2014-2015 budget includes a capital project with a total cost of $150,000.

The Town will offer this $150,000 capital project as its share of its request for grant funding.

Griffin said the project increases the Town’s chances of securing grant funding for the balance of the program.

In related action, the Town Council also approved a Program Manual, which includes all required CDBG policies required for the project. WTSB Photo

DA: Criminal Investigation Involving Town Of Smithfield Continuing
Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle tells WTSB News the criminal investigation involving issues at the Town of Smithfield is still on going. Doyle did not say when the investigation might be completed but says additional information is still being sought.

Doyle said prosecutors are still continuing to interview additional witnesses and are seeking to obtain additional evidence that is necessary for a complete review of the criminal investigation. She did not say what evidence her office was seeking.

Additionally, Doyle said the district attorney’s office was attempting to obtain transcripts from depositions taken from witnesses in civil lawsuits that had been filed.  Doyle said her office has asked the State for funding first in order to pay for the transcriptions, which has caused delays.

Issues surrounding the Town of Smithfield, now dubbed “Salary Gate” has been ongoing for more than 3 years.  In April 2011, elected officials uncovered discrepancies that led to the suspension and eventual firing of Town Manager Eric Williams in May 2011.  

At issue were 31 pay raises to select town officials not authorized by the Smithfield Town Council.  Former Town Clerk Debra Godwin was given a 29 percent salary increase, former finance director Justin Meritt 21%, Public Works Director Lenny Branch 17% and Sanitation Supervisor Dennis Littleton a 22% pay raise. 

Town officials hired C.L. Gobble as their acting town manager in May 2011. Shortly thereafter, Gobble uncovered a practice of where certain town employees were selling unused vacation time back to the town.    

Godwin had reportedly sold 758 hours of vacation time to the town, in increments of 10 hours to 100 hours, and was paid $33,290.  Town Manager Williams sold the town 100 hours of vacation time in September 2010 and 75 hours in October 2010 and received $8,366.  Payroll Technician Lynn Powell was paid $9,059 for her vacation time. 

The policy apparently started well before Williams hiring in 2009.  Former town manager Pete Connet was paid for 440 hours of vacation time and Bobby Plowman was paid for 339 hours when they retired, a violation of personnel policy.  Cobble said at the time no town employee, including the town manager, should directly fail to follow personnel policy. “The policy to sell overtime does not exist anywhere.”

In mid-May 2011, officials announced the top two town employees under Williams, Godwin and Merritt had also been given $100 per month each for mileage, a practice that began July 1, 2010, something former Mayor Dan Evans and council members said at the time they were never informed about.  Officials immediately implemented a policy requiring all employees to give odometer readings and be reimbursed for actual miles driven when using personal vehicles for town business.    

In June 2011, in a 5-to-1 vote, the town council accepted Godwin’s early retirement. Her assistant, Lyn Powell resigned.  

Town officials then asked the NC League of Municipalities to investigate. The 9-page report released in 2011 by an investigator found “a poor exercise of judgment” on the part of some employees.

Town officials then turned over the findings to the District Attorney’s Office to review to see if the actions rose to the level of criminal wrongdoing. 

Doyle did not say when she expected to make a decision in the matter. 

Unrelated to the criminal investigation are two separate civil lawsuits filed by former town manager Eric Williams and former town clerk Debra Godwin.

At a town council meeting last week, Councilman Emery Ashley said “Salary Gate” has cost Smithfield taxpayers over $200,000 to date in unauthorized pay raises and legal bills.