LUMBERTON — A member of the Four-County Board chastised the Robeson County Board of Commissioners on Monday for removing Commissioner Hubert Sealey from that board.
“I think you should reconsider removing Mr. Sealey from the Four-County Board,” said the Rev. Thomas Jones, a Four-County board member for three years who also serves as a member of the Robeson County Planning Board. “I think your action was premature. Mr. Sealey was an asset to that board.”
Robeson County’s new assistant manager, Jason King, was appointed last month to fill Sealey’s seat on the Four-County board. The county commissioners voted to remove Sealey after receiving a letter from Jimmy Cummings, Four-County’s board chairman, stating that Sealey had acted inappropriately.
The decision by the county commissioners came following a closed session that Sealey attended, but the vote, which was done in open session, came after Sealey had left the room.
Four-County, a non-profit headquartered in Laurinburg, operates 16 Head Start facilities and offers programs for poor people in Robeson, Bladen, Columbus, Hoke, Scotland, Pender and Brunswick counties.
Four-County recently fired its longtime executive director, Richard Greene, after a state Department of Health and Human Services audit alleged that he and several other of the non-profit’s employees had misused federal and state funds. The audit found 15 of 18 allegations substantiated. Those findings have been referred to the Office of the State Auditor, which is now conducting its own investigation.
“We’re having a real mess on that board. We’ve got some serious problems,” Jones told the commissioners. “Mr. Sealey was a real asset to that board … . He was asking the right questions.”
Jones criticized the commissioners for the way they removed Sealey from the board, saying they never gave Sealey or anyone else a reason for their action. Jones said the commissioners should have asked Sealey questions about his actions on the Four-County board before making any decision regarding his removal.
“Gentleman, don’t try to get bigger than God,” Jones said. “I don’t think what you did was very Christ-like.”
Sealey told the commissioners that there are “a lot” of things that go on at the Four-County board that they don’t know about.
“The state is now asking questions … . An investigation is now under way,” he said. “Eventually it will all come out.”
Sealey also told fellow commissioners on Monday that he does not think they acted in a just manner when they removed him from the board.
“I think it was a blow below the belt,” he said.
The commissioners did not respond to comments made by Jones or Sealey. After the meeting, Commissioners Roger Oxendine and David Edge said the board will not reconsider Sealey’s removal.
“We had a reason to do what we did,” Oxendine said.
In other business, the commissioners on Monday:
— Approved sending a letter to local legislators requesting that the North Carolina Forest Service operations in Robeson County receive more funding for equipment and program administration. The request was made after an update on Forest Service activities during 2012 was presented by County Ranger Adlia Strickland.
Strickland told the commissioners that although his department fights more fires and has a larger area of woodlands to manage than other parts of the state, the Forest Service in Robeson County receives less state funding for equipment and operations than other counties.
— Approved a contract with Hunt’s Lawn Care to landscaping services for the county’s Parks and Recreation and Social Services departments.
— Approved the sale of surplus equipment, including a Dodge truck, backhoe and compactor at the county landfill.
— Approved sending a letter to the local legislators requesting that state lottery funds be reinstated for school construction.
— Approved sending at letter to local legislators asking that funding be reinstated in the state budget for the Rural Center.
Monday’s meeting was recessed until 6:30 p.m. Thursday, when the board will hold a budget work session at the county’s Emergency Operations Center on Legend Road.