Eastern Carolina Council, Part 6:

Right Place at Right Time

Coincidence? Luck? Or, possibly a Plan?

 Handsomely paid tasks immediately fall into lap of new law firm

Seen here in happier times, attorney Jill Quattlebaum (left) and Katie Bordeaux, executive director of ECC, were good friends. In retrospect, their warm relationship may have prevented more appropriate, arms-length business dealings.

Editor’s Note: In an email exchange with the Grady Quattlebaum law firm, this newspaper has made it clear that we are eager to print any formal statement from the law firm – either now or in the future – that refutes, corroborates, or clarifies our reporting on this subject.

NEW BERN –  Grady Quattlebaum PLCC, a new law firm formed in early August of 2020 by former Sumrell Sugg attorneys Arey Grady and Jill Quattlebaum, abruptly resigned as the legal firm for the Eastern Carolina Council on July 20, 2021. Two days later, Katie Bordeaux, ECC’s executive director, was fired by Eastern Carolina Council’s governing board. 

Public records from the agency – obtained by this newspaper – make it clear that the departures of the Grady Quattlebaum law firm and Bordeaux, the ECC executive director, are related.

Looking back on a tumultuous 2020 with today’s near perfect 20 / 20 hindsight (allusion intended), the governing board of the Eastern Carolina Council should have done a much, much better job of supervising Bordeaux and the new law firm.

After all, a $400,000 few-strings-attached grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (funded from CARES Act appropriations) ultimately became hard-to-resist low-hanging fruit.

Unbeknownst to most of ECC’s governing board, Bordeaux had applied for the grant as trillions were being appropriated by Uncle Sam for pandemic relief. Bordeaux’s title for ECC’s grant application certainly sounded ‘COVID-related’ – TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE IN SUPPORT OF REGIONAL INITIATIVES TO RESPOND TO NEGATIVE ECONOMIC IMPACTS TO EASTERN CAROLINA COUNCIL COMMITTEES FROM THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC. 

Yes, of course, the title had plenty of buzzwords. It was a veritable mouthful. However, with warm, fuzzy terminology that convoluted, it had to be good! Right? 

Most of the money ultimately found its way – via quiet, even subtle, electronic funds transfers – directly into the Grady Quattlebaum checking account. And to earn these monies, Grady Quattlebaum performed entirely above board, well-documented critiques of the land use ordinances for 10 local governments – all members of the Eastern Carolina Council of Governments.

But, looking back, fair questions are surfacing: 

A) Should the $400,000 grant have been spent on legal assignments known as Chapter 160D Re-writes? Yes, maybe there is a remote link to some type of COVID-19 pandemic relief, but that argument / rationale is exceedingly difficult to justify. 

B) Should Grady Quattlebaum have been allowed to wear two hats? One as official legal counsel to ECC. The other as a consultant, doing

supposedly independent, fee-based reviews? 

C) Should Bordeaux have not kept her governing board informed at all times?

D) Perhaps – and most egregious – should Grady Quattlebaum have been allowed to write, and submit, a crucial Feb. 4, 2021 ‘General Release of All Claims’ settlement agreement between Eastern Carolina Council of Governments and Withers Ravenel, a prestigious and highly respected engineering firm based in Cary, North Carolina? At the time, Withers Ravenel had already been hired to conduct the lucrative Chapter 160D Re-writes for 10 members of ECC. That document, which Withers Ravenel reluctantly signed, immediately gave Grady Quattlebaum an inside track and green light to those same ten jobs, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars!