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Wilmington council asks for Wilmington Downtown Inc. audit

READ MORE: Wilmington council asks for Wilmington Downtown Inc. audit

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- The City of Wilmington has put a freeze on funding for Wilmington Downtown Inc. Laura Padgett called out the organization during last week's City Council meeting saying she had seen evidence of inappropriate charges on the group's corporate credit card, but WDI says its record is clean and an audit will prove it

"It just seemed to me that there was maybe bookkeeping things that needed to be looked at," Padgett said. "As a public official who funds that with taxpayer money I really had no choice but to bring the attention to somebody, and I sat down with the city manager and the assistant city manager and said I have a concern."

The council voted 5-2 to withhold funding from the group that helps encourage growth downtown until its yearly audit is complete. WDI says it's used to being audited, and does not see this year any differently than others.

"We really manage our pennies tightly, and with such a small budget, you can account for almost every nickel, and rightfully we should," WDI Executive Director John Hinnant said. "You know, the auditor's going to come in and peel back the layers. They're going to dig, and there's nothing that's going to come of it."

At least week's council meeting, councilman Charlie Rivenbark, who is also on WDI's board, told Padgett that her accusations are unfounded and that she is being fed false information. When asked to name what inappropriate charges she found, Padgett is stopping short.

"I don't want to do that until the auditor has been in and looked at it, because that's the proper procedure. I'm not an auditor," Padgett said

Hinnant said, "All I know is she looked at a credit card statement, and a credit card statement basically tells you where you've been shopping. It doesn't tell you what you've bought or what expenses were budgeted for. You know, she asked that the auditor answer questions, so we're going to let the auditor answer questions."

Wilmington Downtown Inc. is a private-public partnership. It receives about $60,000 from the city and $20,000 from the county. The rest of its money comes from fundraisers like the Downtown Sundown concert series.

The audit is required to be completed by October. Now it's being fast-tracked to see if there are any problems.

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