- Published on Friday, 13 April 2012 11:58
- Written by Super User
After being exonerated in a long running SBI investigation alleging corruption, former Council member Pat Efird and her daughter Sarah held an impromptu ground breaking at the site of her new home to celebrate. Former elected officials Dan Wilcox and Joel Macon were also exonerated.
By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
UPDATED FROM MONDAY APRIL 9, 2012:
CAROLINA BEACH - Former Carolina Beach Mayor Joel Macon called the Island Gazette Monday April 9, to report he had received a call from the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation clearing him of allegations made just before the November 2011
municipal election. Macon said Chris Cardwell with the financial crimes unit of the SBI contacted him. Macon said he was informed that, "No charges are being filed and there was no evidence of wrong doing" and that several people in the community, "Fabricated a bunch of lies and they got what they wanted, for Dan Wilcox to lose" his race for Mayor. Macon said, "It's Carolina Beach's loss".
Macon said the investigation had no effect on his service to the community. He had already planned not to seek another term as Mayor but said he's glad the public will now know he was innocent of the allegations and it was all dirty politics.
A 12-page complaint was delivered to the New Hanover County District Attorney's office in February of this year containing numerous allegations of corruption against then Mayor Joel Macon and Council members Dan Wilcox and Pat Efird.
Former council member Pat Efird also called the Island Gazette Monday morning to report that she had also been cleared by the SBI investigation.
Wilcox said Monday that he knew everything was fine and there was no wrongdoing or corruption. The SBI called him Monday to deliver the same news, the investigation is closed, no charges filed and no evidence of wrongdoing.
The complaint, of which the authors were originally unknown, alleged that elected officials had not disclosed their business relationships with local developers and a business owner as well as Mayor Macon accepting a loan from the owners of property at 1710 Carolina Beach Avenue North a short time after voting in favor of the Town purchasing the property.
On April 7, 2011, District Attorney Benjamin R. David wrote to James Coman,Esq., Special Prosecutions Section, Office of the State Attorney General in Raleigh. David made a formal request "for the involvement of the Attorney General's Office in this matter, pursuant to North Carolina General Statutes."
Macon had previously decided not to seek reelection as Mayor. Wilcox and Efird were running for Mayor in the November 8th election.
The allegations say Macon got a $75,000 loan from property owners Michael and Delores Kirkbride, less than two months after the mayor and Wilcox voted in favor of purchasing real estate from the Kirkbrides at 1710 Carolina Beach Avenue North.
Other allegations say Council member Pat Efird personally purchased property on Rocky Mount Avenue from the Kirkbrides months later at a reduced price after voting with Macon and Wilcox to purchase 1710 from the Kirkbrides for the Town at an inflated price.
Among many other allegations, the report said the anonymous complaint alleged Macon and Wilcox voted to approve of a fuel contract with Macon's former father-in-law who owns a gas station in Carolina Beach. The complaint asserts they were also business associates of the individual and failed to disclose that information.
All three officials said they cooperated with SBI agents in their investigation and had nothing to hide saying the allegations were politically motivated. Wilcox recorded a video that was posted to youtube.com which opens saying, "Someone is once again trying to divide our Town."
Wilcox said in the video some unknown persons, "Have decided to attack Joel Macon, Pat Efird and myself and our credibility." He said it's "politics of the past and I hope you will see them for what they are."
Ultimately, Efird and Wilcox lost their Mayoral election bids to former Mayor Ray Rothrock who won by a large margin.
Following the election, Macon received a fax from the N.C. Department of Justice concerning a letter received by their office about the Town Council improperly advertising and calling for closed session meetings. Attached to that fax was a copy of
the original 12-page complaint and an attachment with the signatures of Nick Nolan, former member of the Town's budget committee, and former Councilman Alan Gilbert.
On Monday afternoon Carolina Beach councilman Bob Lewis posted on his Facebook page, "I just learned that the SBI also closed the case on any accusations against Joel Macon and Dan Wilcox. Again it is unfortunate that both of these gentlemen who have devoted a lot of time to our community were falsely accused. I hope everyone both Dan and Joel will remain active in the community as they have done a lot to move the town forward."
Wilcox explained Monday afternoon, "I want to thank the Gazette for fair coverage on this issue. It was news you had to cover, but you did it without blowing it out of proportion. As for the SBI closing the case - that's not a big surprise. There was never any wrong doing, so there was never anything for me to worry about. The SBI Agent told me he didn't find any evidence to support the charges. I think that says it all."
Wilcox explained, "I do think the two that filed these charges, Alan Gilbert and Nick Nolan, did so intentionally and maliciously to damage reputations and sway the election - so to that end, I think the citizens of Carolina Beach were subjected to an unfair and prejudiced election. That it of itself is wrong. Regardless of whether it would have changed the outcome or not - that's just something we'll never know."
He said, "It would suit me just fine if the SBI charged Gilbert and Nolan for the costs of the investigation. Theses are the same folks that are always accusing
others of wasting taxpayer dollars - but when it fit their personal agendas they had no problem filing frivolous charges that they knew would cost the taxpayers tens of thousands of investigative dollars."
He said, "I would like to thank everyone that supported me during the election - even in the face of the false allegations."
Wilcox added that he hoped the television stations, in particular WECT News Channel 6, would make the exoneration as big a story as they did the allegations prior to the November 2011 election.
Macon issued a statement to the press Monday afternoon saying, "I would like to thank the Island Gazette, the Wilmington Star News and WWAY TV3 for their professionalism they exhibited during
this investigation. I am proud of my 16 years of
elected public service to the Town of Carolina Beach, which I love. During my time in office, I have always tried to make the best decisions for our town based on the information at hand."
He explained, "I have learned not take these things personally or let them make me bitter. I forgive and move on with my life with a light heart and positive attitude. I feel sorry for my accusers who seem to harbor petty vindictiveness, jealousy and hatred in their hearts. They did not put Carolina Beach first and Carolina Beach has suffered because of their actions. Carolina Beach has been drug through the mud once again, for nothing. I forgive them and those who believed them."
On Tuesday former Council member Pat Efird explained, "It is a relief that this ordeal is over. I knew that I had done nothing wrong, but this accusation still hurt my real estate business. It's a shame that a few people can make false accusations with no basis of wrongdoing and cause such a financial burden on the taxpayers and the accused. I want to thank my family, friends and the residents of Carolina Beach and beyond that always stood up and trusted me. The love and support I have received from everyone just reinforces my joy of being part of this great place that we call home."
On Tuesday Alan Gilbert comment that even though charges were not brought against Wilcox, Efird and Macon, the complaint was a way to hold elected leaders accountable to the
voters because there's no state law that allows for a recall election.
He said, "It took a year for the SBI to investigate. They wouldn't have investigated if the complaint had no merit."
He said of the November 2011 election, "There are no laws in North Carolina that allow voters to get rid of elected officials that may be ethically or morally challenged. The voters weighed candidates morals and ethics and voted appropriately."
Gilbert explained, "Everything in the letter was factual. If there's no prosecutor willing to dip into their budget to prosecute" then there is little he can do about it. He said there are many things that may be morally or ethically wrong, but unfortunately not against the law.
He said, "Dan is arrogant to think just because he's not being prosecuted that he's right."