Eastern Carolina Council, Part 2 | Plenty of smoke makes finding fire difficult

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President Trump signs the $2 Trillion CARES Act in late March of 2020. By early July of 2020, the Eastern Carolina Council – based in New Bern and serving communities and counties throughout an eight-county area – had applied for, and been approved for, a grant of $400,000 from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

News Commentary

NEW BERN – Through the haze, there appears to be a blaze. Here is what this newspaper has been able corroborate from a variety of sources:

    • The ECC’s executive director Katie Bordeaux was abruptly fired on July 22, after a three hour closed session of the governing board (which was off-limits to the public and to news media).
    • An equally abrupt resignation of the ECC’s law firm, Grady-Quattlebaum, just two days earlier.
    • A public records request from his newspaper that has not been acknowledged.
    • Questions over the administration of a $400,000 grant from the federal government’s Economic Development Administration
    • Staff rumors of a hostile working environment
    • A Feb. 16, 2021, email from the agency’s finance officer. The officer questions the need for 48-hour turnaround of five-figure legal bills. And, the requirement that these legal invoices were not to be paid by the customary ECC check, but rather by electronic funds transfer, creating “cash flow issues and I need to prepare so this isn’t an issue.”
    • A reputable engineering firm with offices throughout the state being accused – without documentation – of furnishing a “defective work product” to ECC

CARES is an acronym for federal legislation, officially known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security act. There are strings, of course. One of the most remarkable is a mandate that “time is of the essence,” meaning that Uncle Sam wants the money spent fast, on worthwhile projects, as a stimulant to the economy.

Eastern Carolina Council certainly complied, having spent almost every penny by June 30, 2021 – the end of the agency’s fiscal year. ECC also gave its share of the CARES money a name (but no acronym for this one): Technical Assistance in Support of Regional Initiatives to Respond to Negative Economic Impacts to Eastern Carolina Council Committees from the COVID-19 Pandemic.

A bit wordy? Yes. Accurate? You be the judge. Our future reports on this topic will hopefully show where the money really went.


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