SBI to open investigation into Town of Navassa - WSFX - FOX Wilmington, NC

SBI to open investigation into Town of Navassa

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Navassa Town Council Member Athelston Bethel says he saw the town's maintenance manager hauling dirt with town equipment on property not belonging to the town. Navassa Town Council Member Athelston Bethel says he saw the town's maintenance manager hauling dirt with town equipment on property not belonging to the town.
Carlos Garcia sitting in on Thursday's meeting. Carlos Garcia sitting in on Thursday's meeting.
Scott McCaffrey, landowner who received the dirt. Scott McCaffrey, landowner who received the dirt.
Work order showing Mayor Willis had a town employee demolish a mobile home not on town property Work order showing Mayor Willis had a town employee demolish a mobile home not on town property

NAVASSA, NC (WECT) - Agents with the SBI plan to open an investigation into the town of Navassa after WECT uncovered the town using government property for non-government purposes.

Late Friday, SBI Spokesperson Noelle Talley said the SBI is starting the inquiry after a request from District Attorney Jon David.

Navassa Town Council Member Athelston Bethel told WECT.com he saw maintenance manager Carlos Garcia hauling dirt with town equipment on property not belonging to the town over the weekend.

Thursday night, Garcia said Mayor Eulis Willis told him to use town equipment to move dirt onto a personal residence. He says he worked for several hours over the course of several weekends.

"I was asked to do it and I went ahead and did it, I'm asked to do a lot of things here," said Garcia.  He says he did it on his personal time and was not paid.

The dirt was moved for landowner Scott McCaffrey's property. McCaffrey told WECT that he spoke to the mayor about the dirt, and the mayor told him he could have it. When McCaffrey offered to pay for it and for the expense of moving it, he says he was told that he did not need to.

On Wednesday, WECT asked the mayor about the transaction. However he told us that he knew nothing about the transaction. On Thursday, when we asked him about that response, he only said, "I did not want to be interviewed by Gavin." (Gavin Johnson is a reporter at WECT.)

During Thursday's meeting, the mayor said there is no policy against using town equipment for non-town related projects. He said it has happened several times over the years.

Navassa Town Councilman Tony Burgess said he would like all issues to go before the board.

"Some people seem to have it all wrong, there is a certain protocol, just because you sit on the board just because you are the mayor doesn't mean one person can go out and call all the shots," Tony Burgess said. "We got a protocol we have to go through, its not governed by Navassa."

WECT obtained work orders from last April showing Willis signed off for Garcia to tear down a mobile home located near a tree not belonging to the town. We also obtained pictures of the debris being hauled off in a town truck. Despite the mayor's signature, other council members say they did not know about the project until the home was demolished. 

Then there's a work order from December showing Willis approved a work order allowing town employees to build a wheel chair ramp. Other council members tell us, they were also unaware of that project until after it happened. 

According to the Cape Fear Council of Governments it is illegal to do work using town property if there's a personal gain and if the entire council did not take a vote. Some council members in Navassa indicated they had no idea the private projects were taking place until after they were completed. 

The North Carolina School of Government tells us, despite the town not having a policy prohibiting town equipment being used on private projects, it's still illegal.

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