Board member urges changes at Rural Development Center


The non-profit was the target of a scathing audit earlier this week. It has already led to the founder stepping down.  Now, a board member tells the ABC11 I-Team that he thinks more heads should roll.

A little over a year ago Raleigh businessman Bob Luddy got on the Rural Center's board, at the urging of the top Republican in the senate, Phil Berger.

Luddy is emerging as one of the sharpest critics of the non-profit. He's calling for the resignation of the entire executive committee including the board's current chair.

"They've been used to doing this for so long," said Luddy. "That's how they do business."  

Despite being a board member, Luddy isn't shy in his criticism of the Rural Center.

"What I would like to see is the Rural Center abolished," said Luddy.

However, not before he sees more accountability.

"Miss Lee and the executive committee need to resign immediately," he said.

Luddy is joining Gov. Pat McCrory in calling for Chairwoman Valeria Lee to step down. He added the entire board, which he says quietly created a golden parachute for former president Billy Ray Hall.

Hall stepped down Thursday after an audit showed major problems at the center, and hefty executive salaries.

Luddy says those salaries were paid for, in part, with money the nonprofit should never have had. They don't spend all the money they get from the state right away. They'd invest a lot of it. Over the past five years, making some $20 million in interest, which they keep -- using the extra money, in part, to create what Luddy says amounted to a secret severance package for Hall of nearly $250,000.

"We've not been informed about it," said Luddy. "There are no documents about it. It's not in the notes."

Now, Luddy is on a mission to get taxpayer money back and ensure Hall doesn't get that money back. Friday, he sent a letter to the chairwoman and copied all 50 members of the board.

"If you fail to resign," Luddy wrote, "I will begin the legal process to have you removed from the board and ask the appropriate law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute."

Lee has set a special board meeting at the end of this month. She told board members, in an email, that they need to talk about the audit which started all this.          

McCrory moved Thursday to freeze money at the Rural Development Center.

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