EDEN — Former City Manager Brad Corcoran, who was recently convicted of felony embezzlement from the city, saw his base salary increase by nearly $55,000 during his 18-year tenure in Eden.
And despite Corcoran’s guilty plea to charges he systematically stole from the City of Eden from 2007-2017, the municipality was required to hand Corcoran a $4,718 payout after he resigned and subsequently pleaded guilty the morning of Aug. 27.
While some citizens blanch at the fact Corcoran parted with any compensation, contract terms show he could have collected a lot more if he had been fired.
In fact, the city would have been compelled to pay $70,000 to a terminated Corcoran because his contract terms would have required officials to hand over a six-month lump sum of salary, plus a half-year continuance of all benefits.
The check for $4,718 was a portion of a $24,718 net amount owed to Corcoran, according to his contract. The sum was calculated as pay for 266.67 hours of Corcoran’s unused vacation and half of his 403.98 hours of remaining sick time.
A major portion of the payout went right back to the City of Eden when Corcoran was ordered to pay $20,000 in restitution after pleading guilty via Alford designation to a charge of felony larceny by employee.
The Alford plea means that Corcoran didn’t admit guilt, but believed it was in his best interest to plead guilty.
Corcoran, who was accused of doctoring the time sheets of his three children between 2007-2017 while city manager, did not receive severance pay after Eden Mayor Neville Hall placed him on administrative leave the day before his court appearance.
Hall said Corcoran resigned and the pair did not discuss the resignation beforehand.
“He voluntarily did it and we were happy that he did because if we fired him we would have had to pay his severance,” Hall said.
Since signing his last employment agreement in December of 2007, Corcoran enjoyed salary hikes of more than $31,500 prior to his departure amid the scandal.
That total, which makes up nearly 58 percent of Corcoran’s salary bumps during his 18-year tenure, was mostly approved between February 2012 and July 2019. This followed a nearly four-year window in which he didn’t receive a bonus.
Between Feb. 5, 2012 and July 3, 2019, the city council approved $20,414 in salary increases for Corcoran with his final raise of $500 coming just days before SBI and FBI officials interviewed city officials in their investigation of Corcoran.
Corcoran’s pay arrangement as city manager through his 2007 contract allowed for some generous perks.
Due to his more than 15 years of service, Corcoran had accrued 184 hours of leave at the time of his resignation. The time was credited to his personal account from year-to-year, according to contract terms.
Additionally, Corcoran accumulated 16.62 hours of sick leave for every one of his bi-weekly pay periods — time that would have been available as sick pay upon retirement.
While Corcoran had the same health, dental, and life insurance all other city employees are provided, his contract gave him the added coverage for his spouse and three children at no cost.
The city further paid for civic club costs for Corcoran and a monthly automotive allowance of $400 with mileage above the monthly allowance, according to the 2007 contract.
Corcoran, 58, was sentenced to a suspended 5-to-15 month prison sentence by Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Stan Allen on Aug. 27. Allen ordered the Henry County, Virginia, native to serve 18 months of supervised probation, in lieu of prison time, and complete 75 hours of community service during supervised probation.
Corcoran is eligible for unsupervised probation after nine months.
In a related recent Eden City Council meeting, citizens chided the mayor and ccouncil for allowing Corcoran to pilfer from Eden’s coffers for a decade.
The contentious Sept. 17 meeting also saw Hall and several council members defend themselves as having been in the dark to Corcoran’s embezzling until state and federal investigators brought his crimes to light.
Hall opened the meeting by reassuring the public that officials are awake to internal problems and will fortify the city’s nepotism policy by November by better defining “the system of checks and balances for city manager.’’
“We are moving forward now. In its 52-year history, the City of Eden has never dealt with the issue of embezzlement,’’ Hall said. “We regret that it occurred and we are determined that it will never happen again. While the city has enjoyed a clean audit for 38 years from a reputable accounting firm that specializes in municipal financials,’’ Hall said.
“What was involved in the matter to which the former city manager pleaded guilty, concerned personnel and payroll — areas that the annual audit doesn’t thoroughly address — that’s what we learned during this situation.’’
To correct problems, Eden officials are working with the SBI, the FBI and the League of Municipalities to “incorporate best practices in the compensation system and its auditing methods,’’ Hall said.
The mayor stressed that the city will no longer permit any employee to directly supervise a relative.
Emphasizing the robust economic health of the city, Hall said Eden had increased its fund balance 126% --from $4,157,000 in 2000, to $9,408,000 in June 2018. He characterized the city as a careful steward of taxpayer dollars, saying “taxpayers’ money is spent conservatively and saving money is the highest priority.’’
Beyond that, Eden has the county’s lowest tax rate and has not raised taxes in 19 years. Plus, staff and city council have secured $28,309,000 in grants over the past six years, money that does not need to be repaid and represents savings for taxpayers, Hall said.
Eden resident Malcolm Allen used his public comment time to beseech officials to be more transparent about the Corcoran investigation.
“How can business be attracted to Rockingham County if we become labeled as the home of crooks who can’t be trusted? Come forward and give the details we are entitled to. If the bank took your money from your account and told you, ‘we can’t tell you how much or what happened,’ you would be outraged,’’ Allen said.
“Don’t let someone’s greed overshadow the good that you’ve done for Eden. If someone robbed one of Eden’s stores, they’d get 5-10 years,’’ Allen said, alluding to Corcoran’s punishment. “They rob the entire city, they get community service. What’s to stop them? And what message are we sending to the community?’’
Hall invited Allen to ask the FBI, SBI and District Attorney Jason Ramey about the investigation. “We had nothing to do with the investigation or the charges that were filed,’’ Hall said. “You can accuse us of it if you want to. It came from the FBI and the SBI and the DA …”
Diana Biggs of Eden also challenged city officials to do a better job of rooting out corruption and complained that officials should have watched Corcoran more closely.
“You do have honest people in city employment, but there are also those that know more and tell more than you want them to. And there are those who are no longer employed who know more truth than you are willing to admit,’’ Biggs said.
“You were each elected by the people to serve and represent those who put you in here. If you’re here just to be receiving the monthly check and be a rubber stamp, then you need to step down,’’ she said.
“Everything you think has been swept under the carpet has not been left there. It is past time to get all the rules and regulations fixed and followed by all. All the others involved in this should also be dismissed. We as citizens are expecting accountability,’’ Biggs said.
Biggs also complained that the city had allowed Corcoran to enter City Hall while he was on administrative leave.
“…He had a key. He came in here to get his stuff,’’ Hall said. “He’d been here for 20 years, he needed to get his stuff out. That’s about all I can say about that one.’’
Hall was recently named to the board of the North Carolina League of Municipalities, and the City of Eden will host a human resources specialist from the organization for a public meeting Oct. 8 at 6 p.m. at the Eden City Hall Conference Room.
The specialist is expected to discuss issues surrounding the selection of a fitting new city manager for Eden. Longtime Eden Department of Public Works Director Terry Shelton is serving as interim city manager.
The council meeting also saw Councilman Gerald Ellis used more than five minutes to pledge his commitment to the city and plead ignorance to Corcoran’s misdeeds.
“We weren’t able to see what was going on,’’ Ellis said. “If we did know, don’t you think we would have done the right thing?”
“I didn’t know about it. I ain’t got no reason to lie,’’ Ellis said. “I wanna make this clear because I got an election coming up here …’’
Councilman Daryl Carter told the room, “A lot of us didn’t know nothing.’’ And Councilman Jerry Epps said, “I’d like to reiterate that I also didn’t know anything about it. It was like a stake in my heart.’’