Kia AnthonySpring Lake's new mayor believes a new board of aldermen wants to see changes in government operations.

"We need to rebuild trust in our government in the midst of a financial crisis," said Mayor Kia Anthony. The mayor and board took their oaths of office in a ceremony on Dec. 13.

State Sen. Kirk deViere administered the oath to Anthony, an entrepreneur and director of a nonprofit group.

She is an Army veteran and a native of Michigan but has been a Spring Lake resident for 17 years.

On Oct. 5, North Carolina's Local Government Commission took control of Spring Lake's finances, citing years of mismanagement.

A $1.8 million budget deficit resulted from maladministration, misappropriation of funds and budgeting issues. Anthony told Up & Coming Weekly that only one incumbent member of the board of aldermen was re-elected because of the financial situation. Anthony believes Sona Cooper was re-elected because she brought attention to concerns that the firm that conducted the town's annual financial audits had not noticed the monetary issues.

Anthony beat two board members who challenged her and succeeded Larry Dobbins, who did not seek reelection.

The mayor said she would devote much of her time to the part-time post.

"I'm no stranger to a long day's work," she said.

The new board of aldermen, in addition to Cooper, includes Robyn Chadwick, Marvin Lackman, Raul Palacious and Adrian Thompson. Chadwick was named Mayor Pro Tem.

Questions about Spring Lake's finances first surfaced in 2015 when a resident told officials that employees and leaders had misused town-issued credit cards.

A year later, the state auditor's office suspected problems with nearly $579,000 with town expenditures and found apparent faulty record-keeping from 2010 through 2015.

State Treasurer Dale Folwell's office said besides the deficit, the town has outstanding debt of at least $6.7 million. He said this is by far the largest takeover in state history.

The LGC monitors the financial well-being of more than 1,100 local government units in North Carolina.
It had its eye on Spring Lake for a while. According to the LGC, Spring Lake permitted the expenditure of funds not in the town's General Fund budget and allowed the General Fund to fall into a deficit.

The town's accounting system is also not compliant with state standards.

State law says local governments and public authorities are required to have their accounts audited as soon as possible after the end of each fiscal year.

Reports are due on Oct. 31 each year, with a grace period extension to Dec. 1. Spring Lake's audits have been at least two months late for the past five years, and the 2018 audit was 16 months late.

Spring Lake is adjacent to Fort Bragg and is home to about 12,000 people.