ECC board moves decisively, as details emerge

NEW BERN – Grady Quattlebaum, PLCC, a new law firm formed in early August of last year 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 Bordeau, 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. Those same records explain why a ‘General Membership’ meeting held three weeks earlier on June 30 featured tough questions for Bordeaux.

At the time, the ECC’s quartet of officers – President Jay Bender of Pollocksville; 1st Vice President Bill Taylor of Morehead City; 2nd Vice President Ed Riggs Jr. of Alliance; and, Treasurer Shane Turney of Trent Woods – likely knew that the law firm & ECC director had developed an unusually close relationship. 

Riggs in particular posed hostile questions for Bordeaux after a computer slide presentation gave a cursory overview on how a $400,000 CARES Act grant had been administered. According to Bordeaux’s presentation, the money had been earmarked for ten local governments to receive assistance with what is known as a ‘Chapter 160D re-write.’ 

Under this scenario, CARES Act money would flow thru ECC to a consultant, charged with reviewing the local government’s land use laws and rules to ensure conformity with new state legislation – basically “re-writing” local laws already on the books. 

After the slide presentation, Riggs deftly elicited an unqualified assurance from Bordeaux that an official with the U.S. Economic Development Administration, Ms. Hillary Sherman, had addressed the question of a ‘legal review’ for such work.

Riggs: “Well, I guess one of the points you made tonight that answered my question was that EDA required the legal review?”

Bordeaux: “Suggested . . . it was strongly suggested because is was a new mandate from NC. We were the only Council of Goverment in the state that got this grant and EDA said we got to get it right.”

Since the June 30 session, this newspaper and others have learned that Ms. Sherman made no such suggestion. 

Public records indicate that Turney, the ECC’s Treasurer, had an even better reason to be upset during the June 30 session. In a strange, even bizarre, May 18, 2021, email exchange, Turney, THE ECC TREASURER, had been forced to remind Bordeaux of the agency’s pecking order:

As the current Treasurer and Budget and Audit Committee chair, I am formally requesting copies of any and all financial\transactions, fees, payments, or compensation of any type that has been made to any law firm or individual lawyer by, through, or on behalf of Eastern Carolina Council for the past 5 years. I want this information to show the method of payment and be provided to each member of the Budget and Audit Committee electronically.

The email from Turney triggered an alert from Bordeaux to the ECC finance officer, in which she says “I am the only ECC staff member that is to respond and to provide the information. I will respond to Mr. Turney and any other request.”

What Turney and his colleagues eventually received was eye-popping! Next week, we’ll tackle the next installment of the ECC saga.