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RALEIGH, NC (AP) — The chairwoman of the Rural Economic Development Center has resigned after weeks of critical reports on spending by the taxpayer-funded nonprofit.

Valeria Lee had refused to step down as recently as Monday. But she told board members Wednesday she was leaving so the center could move forward. Lee has led the board since 2009.

A state audit last month criticized the center’s management of grants and a $242,000 severance account for the center’s founding president, Billy Ray Hall. He stepped down after the audit, and the center’s board froze his severance.

State lawmakers cut off the group’s funding and shifted rural development efforts to existing state agencies.

Over its 26-year history, the center received more than $650 million from the state. The center also receives federal money.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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