State Auditor Beth Wood released a report Thursday, May 19, stating the Franklinton town manager made $37,900 in purchases without following the formal bidding requirements in violation of the town’s purchasing policy.
The Town of Franklinton website lists Gregory Bethea as the town manager.
The report says that from July 2020 to October 2021, Bethea contracted with Franklinton Development for two projects including the downtown development of an alleyway for $15,000 and the demolition and repair of two properties for $22,900.
Bethea didn’t follow the town’s purchasing policy that required written solicitation of bids for purchases over $10,000.
Investigators state Bethea didn’t solicit bids for the projects in writing but instead called a few companies to obtain quotes. Additionally, he admitted that he did not obtain written quotes due to the size of the projects and the limited interest he encountered, which he attributed to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Bethea told investigators, “Unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough (money) to get anybody of real interest… and we’re also working with time constraints.” In reference to the pandemic, Bethea stated, “Quite honestly, it was a bad time to get bids.”
As a result of the failure to follow formal bidding requirements, the town may have paid more than necessary for these two projects. The additional funds spent could have been used for other town operations.
Investigators say that Bethea, a retiree with approximately 40 years of government experience was hired by the town in 2018 to assist with stabilizing the town. He provided the five-page purchasing policy to investigators. However, when shown the section of the policy that outlines the bidding requirements, Bethea stated, “I’ve honestly not seen this (the policy) before that I recall.”
When asked why he did not follow the purchasing policy, Bethea stated, “I thought we were using the State bid laws.”
Wood’s office issued the following recommendations:
- The town manager should follow the formal bidding requirements for all purchases in accordance with the town’s purchasing policy.
- The town manager and town commissioners should ensure employees are aware of all town policies.
- The town manager and town commissioners should periodically review and revise the purchasing policy as needed to ensure it is current and reflects the needs of the town.
Bethea responded to the audit by saying, “We recognize the manager’s error in not bidding these contracts and will assure that all existing staff and future employees are properly trained on our policies.”