Courthouse security, requests for funds addressed by county

Published 9:33 pm Saturday, February 7, 2015

Leading up to budget meetings for the next fiscal year, the county is considering placing requirements on entities asking for funds.

A discussion about the issue was introduced by Commissioner Hood Richardson at Monday’s Beaufort County Board of Commissioners meeting. Richardson said he believed commissioners should not allow nonprofits to appear to request funds without the board first reviewing the nonprofit’s financials. Among his suggestions: budget information and three years of IRS forms, as well as a suggestion to pay vendors directly for work done for the requesting nonprofit, rather than the nonprofit itself.

“The whole purpose of this is to tighten up the giving away of county money. We give away a lot of money every year,” Richardson said, adding that there are no measures in place to verify how county funds are used after they’re given to the requesting organization.

“I think we need to define what we’re talking about. There are nonprofits that we have contracts with that this would apply to,” said Commissioner Ron Buzzeo in response.

Buzzeo pointed out the county’s volunteer fire departments as an example of those that rely on county funds. Commissioner Jerry Langley suggested that any requirements for nonprofits should be based on how much money is being requested — that the paperwork would not be worth the effort for an agency making a small request, as opposed to one seeking a considerable amount of funding.

The discussion was initiated, in part, due a funding request from Martin Community Action, a 50-year-old nonprofit providing free services to low-income residents in Beaufort, Martin and Pitt counties. The agency’s past mismanagement has accrued a debt of nearly $800,000, and the agency is now asking commissioners in all three counties for increased funding in order to continue long-established family assistance programs.

In Monday’s meeting, taking a closer look at issues also extended to that of security at the Beaufort County Courthouse. Board of Commissioners Chairman Gary Brinn told the board he received a letter from judges who work in the courthouse, sharing their concerns about the lack of security. Currently, there are no checks on persons entering the courthouse, though visitors to the courtrooms are required to pass through metal detectors manned by law enforcement.

“I’m in agreement (with the judges). In today’s time, we only need one incident that kills four or five people,” Brinn said.

Brinn made a motion to form a committee to study courthouse security — a committee headed by Beaufort County Interim Manager Ken Windley, and including

county Public Works Director Christina Smith, Sheriff Ernie Coleman, Clerk of Court Marty Paramore, Register of Deeds Jennifer Whitehurst, Buzzeo and Brinn.

After a heated exchange in which Richardson referred to Brinn as “Your Majesty,” and Brinn told Richardson, “You’ve been downright ugly in this meeting,” Brinn’s motion passed, 5-2, with Richardson and Commissioner Frankie Waters voting against.