By Kathryn Burcham
STALLINGS, N.C. —
Town leaders in Stallings are demanding answers after an audit revealed a councilman owed $20,000 in back insurance payments.
Officials told Channel 9 Councilman Harry Stokes has not paid his health insurance payments to the town for 15 straight months.
Council members said the error was discovered during an audit by the Local Government Commission, and now Mayor Lynda Paxton is questioning why finance staff inside Stallings Town Hall failed to notice the missing payments for so long.
In an email to council members and staff sent last week, Paxton said the missing money “raised questions about possible impropriety,” and suggested the town change its current policy allowing elected officials to purchase the same health insurance as town employees.
Councilman Wyatt Dunn told Eyewitness News he is concerned about why the missing funds were never noticed.
“I was shocked. $20,000 is a lot of money. We just wanted some answers on how it came about,” Dunn said.
Stokes’ colleagues are also questioning why he purchased health and dental insurance for his family from the town in the first place, as Stokes owns his own insurance company in Monroe.
Stokes refused an on-camera interview, but agreed to answer a list of written questions.
In reference to why he bought coverage from the town, Stokes wrote, “It was offered to all council members as a benefit paid in full by the Council. The benefits and price were a better option than I currently had at the time. I was not the broker or the agent in procuring that coverage for the town, and the coverage was in place before I came into office.”
Stokes also called the unpaid bill an honest mistake, explaining, “Unfortunately I did not realize that my automatic bank draft that I believed was paying the insurance was actually being applied to my car payments and I was making double payments on the car and did not realize it. I have offered the town attorney information to confirm this,” Stokes wrote.
Stokes said he will repay the money.