LUMBERTON — Hal Kinlaw resigned Monday as county attorney after a half-hour meeting behind closed doors with Robeson County commissioners.
In doing so, Kinlaw left behind the highest salary paid a county attorney in North Carolina.
“I discussed with the board … some problems I am having,” Kinlaw said just before the commissioners voted publicly to accept his resignation. “This has nothing to do with the county or my ability to practice law.
“But I recognize that with all that has appeared in the newspapers, my ability to practice as the county’s attorney has been compromised.”
The commissioners voted 7 to 0 to accept the resignation. Commissioner David Edge was not present at the meeting.
Immediately following the vote, as Kinlaw rose to leave, he was stopped by County Manager Ricky Harris for a brief hug.
Although his resignation is effective immediately, Kinlaw, the county’s attorney for 23 years, told the commissioners that he would continue to assist the county until a new lawyer can be hired. The commissioners have authorized County Manager Ricky Harris to begin the search immediately.
Kinlaw and the commissioners made no comments on the resignation after the meeting. But Harris told The Robesonian that Kinlaw has been an asset to the county.
“We are losing a very valuable person,” he said. “Hal has been excellent to work with.”
According to Harris, Kinlaw, who also operates a private practice, has been receiving a salary of $179,242 from the county. That salary was the highest in the state for a county attorney by about $30,000 according to the UNC School of Government.
Harris said Kinlaw also is paid by the county for expenses incurred when he requires assistance from other attorneys for legal work for the county. According to the School of Government, Kinlaw billed the county $366,405 for additional fees during 2012.
County Sheriff Kenneth Sealey praised Kinlaw’s work after the meeting.
“I can only speak for myself, but when our people needed assistance with a legal issue, Hal was always there,” Sealey said.
BB&T filed six lawsuits against Kinlaw at the Robeson County courthouse on April 15. In addition to the attorney, his wife Marcia, Anita Jo Kinlaw Troxler, and five companies were named as defendants.
The bank in its lawsuits have cited Kinlaw with making 56 transactions that date back to 2001 and total about $17.8 million.
Kinlaw told The Robesonian on Friday that he was in a “bad investment scenario” and “trying to work out a way to pay everything back.” He said that his problems center on several tracts of land he has purchased over the years in Onslow and other coastal counties for development companies. None of the land is in Robeson County, he said.
According to Kinlaw, the value of the properties has depreciated so much over the past few years that the bank now contends the collateral to renew his loan no longer exists.
Kinlaw said late last week that before BB&T filed the suits he owed about $23 million. Since December he has paid $6 milion toward the unpaid loans, he said
Court documents name five companies, in addition to Kinlaw, as being defendants in the lawsuits filed by the bank. They include: McClaw Group Inc.; Kinlaw Investment Co.; Webb Creek Water and Sewage; Parnell Kinlaw Group Inc.; and Group Eight Ltd. All of the companies have addresses listed either for Kinlaw’s home in St. Pauls or his law office in Lumberton, and he is named in loan documents as vice president or secretary of all the companies.
Kinlaw’s businesses are also delinquent in paying county taxes, but The Robesonian has been unable to determine how much.