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New Hanover Co. schools looking to hire contractor previously convicted of fraud

READ MORE: New Hanover Co. schools looking to hire contractor previously convicted of fraud

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- The New Hanover Board of Education was considering hiring a contractor who was previously convicted of fraud. In February, Lee Cowper, a Wilmington commercial contractor, pled guilty to federal mail fraud. The school board's design consultant for a renovation project at Wrightsboro Elementary School has reportedly recommended Cowper for the job.

County Commission Chairman Jonathon Barfield is calling the move by the school board 'not good.'

“Although he's a great contractor, he's already admitted to defrauding one government entity, which is the county ABC Board,” said Barfield.

Cowper was convicted of mail fraud after allegedly devising a scheme to defraud the New Hanover County ABC Board into overpaying him $43,000 for the construction of a Porters Neck ABC store in 2006.

The county school board was scheduled to discuss bids for the Wrightsboro Elementary project Tuesday, but decided to table it until their August 2nd meeting. Barfield says he thinks it's a good idea.

“I don't know that the school board members were fully aware that this was going to be on their agenda, but I think they made the right call,” said Barfield.

Cowper's bid for the project was $1.4 million, which was not the lowest offer. Chairman Barfield says he doesn't see Cowper getting the bid from the school board.

“I think wisdom will prevail and the other businesses will that have bids on this project and I just wouldn't see them moving forward with utilizing that particular company,” said Barfield

Cowper's sentencing for the fraud conviction is scheduled for some time in September.

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