FOR MUCH MORE ON THIS STORY, VISIT THE LOCAL NEWS REVIEW WEBSITE OR PICK UP THURSDAY'S EDITION OF THE LOCAL NEWS REVIEW.
NAVASSA, NC (WWAY) -- Forgery. That's the word Navassa's Mayor Pro Tem used to justify the town council stripping Mayor Eulis Willis of much of his authority. The Local News Review has been working for weeks to uncover the truth behind this story.
In 2007, the Town of Navassa received an $850,000 community development block grant from the North Carolina Department of Commerce, which was to be used largely to pay for water and sewer improvements. One stipulation was that the town was required to get right of way agreements from private property owners. That's where things appear to have gone wrong.
Jerry and Ruthlene Freeman owned some of the property the town needed to access for the infrastructure improvements, but they told the Navassa Town Council they never signed the Deed of Easement granting access to their property.
Mayor Pro Tem Michael Ballard says if they didn't sign it, someone forged it. Because Willis was in charge of this project, a cloud of suspicion is over him, and his fellow town council members decided to strip Mayor Willis of his duties, as they are allowed to do by state law under certain circumstances.
Patricia White is the notary public who signed the deed in question. We called her to verify that Jerry and Ruthlene Freeman signed the document she notarized. White told us she was instructed not to discuss that document. She declined to tell us who gave her those instructions, and refused to verify that the Freemans had signed the deed in her presence.