Luxury vehicles, gym memberships and exorbitant bonuses are usually the things of corporate CEOs and company presidents, not the executive director and his staff of an agency tasked with assisting low-income families to become self-sufficient and transitioning children from home to school.
But for four years, between 2009 and 2012, those things were the norm for Richard Greene, executive director of Four County Community Services, an agency that has served the residents of Bladen, Columbus, Pender, Robeson, Hoke and Scotland counties since 1964.
The blatant misuse of state and federal money was first discovered by the Department of Health and Human Services last year. And while the discovery managed to pinpoint 10 areas of fiscal mismanagement by the executive team, its crowning achievement was that it led shortly after to the termination of Greene.
Once the North Carolina State Auditor’s Office got hold of the allegations against Four County, the instances of money misuse began to quickly pile up — to the tune of 60 additional allegations, 23 of which were verified. An in-depth accounting of all those allegations can be found in Abbi Overfelt’s story in the “top stories” section of the home page.
Not since the shockwaves rippling throughout the area from “Operation Tarnished Badge” in Robeson County has this region seen a story of such blatant, out of control and greedy attack on the public trust. In fact, State Auditor Beth Wood classified the misuse of money by Four County as the worst she has seen in her career.
But now that the state has a firm grasp on what has transpired within Four County Community Services under the Greene administration, we are confident that the agency — perhaps after some additional housecleaning — will get its act together and return to focusing on its mission statement.
We are also confident that the state may now tighten its grip on Greene, and perhaps others, potentially forcing them to face criminal charges related to the misuse of nearly $5 million as determined by the state audit.
The road back to credibility for this worthwhile regional community services agency is a long one — and one that will be under a magnifying glass every step of the way. But while the spotlight has uncovered its numerous fiscal misdeeds, it can now shine brightly on the good that its new leadership can accomplish.
We hope they will embrace the opportunity.