EDEN — While city officials have taken some steps forward following the conviction of a popular city manager that shocked the community, plenty of questions remain.
It is still unclear just who initiated the probe into longtime city manager Brad Corcoran’s financial record keeping. And details of exactly how the investigation unfolded are few.
Corcoran, 58, pleaded guilty via an Alford plea earlier this week to one count of felony larceny by employee after investigators determined he doctored his three childrens’ time sheets when they worked as seasonal employees for the city between 2007 and 2017.
By accepting an Alford plea, Corcoran did not admit guilt, but accepted that such an arrangement was in his best interest.
The plea comes just over a month after Eden City employees were interviewed by SBI investigators as part of an audit investigation requested by Rockingham and Caswell County District Attorney Jason Ramey.
“We were requested by the Rockingham County District Attorney in March of 2019 to kind of do an audit of some expenses in the City of Eden,” said SBI Special Agent Scott Williams on July 18, one day after SBI officials interviewed the employees at Eden City Hall.
Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Stan Allen ordered the former city manager to serve 18 months of supervised probation and a suspended 5-to-15- month prison term.
Allen further ordered Corcoran to pay $20,000 in restitution to the City of Eden and complete 75 hours of community service. Corcoran will be eligible for unsupervised probation after nine months.
Corcoran, who wrote a personal check to the city, paid the $20,000 shortly after he was sentenced Tuesday.
While it’s impossible to determine the exact amount of money Corcoran misappropriated, the $20,000 in restitution was estimated based on the number of “special pay” hours SBI investigators found Corcoran had added to his childrens’ time sheets, Ramey said.
Those “special pay” hours were falsely tallied for trash pickup and other various city projects, though some hours reported by Corcoran were actually worked by his kids. he said.
The falsified time sheets date back to 2007, Ramey explained.
While Corcoran’s daughters were former seasonal employees for the City of Eden’s municipal pool, Corcoran’s son was a former seasonal employee who now works for Eden’s Public Works Department.
Local court documents provide little information on the SBI’s July audit investigation or Corcoran’s crimes.
That lack of information has left the public seeking answers about the investigation and plea arrangement.
In a letter to the public released on social media Friday, Mayor Neville Hall explained Corcoran’s Tuesday morning resignation, which came prior to his 9 a.m. court hearing.
In a statement submitted to RockinghamNow Tuesday, Hall said he was notified during the week prior that Corcoran would likely be charged as a result of the SBI’s investigation into audit practices.
While Corcoran’s resignation came just before he entered the Tuesday guilty plea, Corcoran was placed on administrative leave by the City of Eden roughly one week before, Hall said in the letter.
City officials however, never notified the public of the disciplinary action until after Corcoran pleaded guilty.
Furthermore, Corcoran was never arrested for the felony crime.
In fact, in the weeks following the SBI’s visit, Corcoran publicly behaved as if all was normal.
Last Tuesday, after leading a presentation for an Eden Citizen’s Academy class, Corcoran performed his duties before the council as usual, reading aloud the city’s latest attempt to reclaim voluntary curbside recycling service.
A week later, Corcoran sat alone in a near-empty courtroom, then rose to hear Allen issue his sentence.
During testimony, defense attorney Vernon Cardwell of Madison said Corcoran was sorry for letting friends and family down.
And while Corcoran ultimately pleaded guilty via Alford designation, he never publicly acknowledged or apologized for his crime.
Following the hearing, Corcoran swiftly exited the courthouse, ignoring requests for comment.
Corcoran, whose land line and cell numbers were disconnected or changed, could not be reached for comment.
Requests for comment via personal email addresses also bounced back or went unanswered.
Corcoran spent 15 years in municipal government before being hired as Eden city manager in February 2001.
The Henry County, Virginia, native served as town manager of New Market, Virginia, for eight years prior to being selected for the Eden position.
Before New Market, he held city manager posts in Vinton and Narrows, both small Virginia towns.
Corcoran accepted an $85,000 a year offer to become Eden’s city manager 18 years ago — a salary $20,000 higher than that of his Eden predecessor, according to past news reports.
On Friday, Hall confirmed that Corcoran’s ending base pay was $139,750 for the 2019-20 fiscal year.
RockinghamNow asked the City of Eden via public records request for Corcoran’s terms of contract, as well as dates and amounts of each increase or decrease to Corcoran’s salary during his tenure.
That request was not fulfilled by press time.
Council remains silent
Beyond seconding a motion to name Terry A. Shelton interim city manager during a special session Tuesday, Eden City Council members have kept mum on the recent saga. And for good reason.
Asked if there are any circumstances under which current or former city council members can discuss Corcoran’s case, a municipal law expert Monica Jackson said, “unequivocally, no.”
Jackson, senior assistant general counsel for the North Carolina League of Municipalities in Raleigh, said a North Carolina statute compels council members from discussing personnel issues of current or former city employees.
Doing so could result in civil or criminal consequences, Jackson said.
Asked by phone on Friday if the city anticipates uncovering more irregularities in Corcoran’s past record keeping, Hall said, “not according to the SBI or the FBI.”
“We didn’t do an investigation,” Hall said. “We turned everything over to those agencies and they investigated and concluded that’s all they could find … all they were gonna find.” While the SBI led the investigation, the FBI provided some assistance.
Asked if the city anticipates taking future civil action against Corcoran, Hall said the council has not discussed the possibility.
“The restitution that was agreed on, I think, is what the courts agreed would be fair for the amount of money that was taken,” Hall said. “I’m not saying it couldn’t happen, but we haven’t talked about doing that.”
The SBI on Friday confirmed the agency has no further active investigations involving the City of Eden.