Former official investigated

The Cabarrus County Sheriff's Office is investigating financial transactions made by former Harrisburg town administrator Michele Reapsmith, who was relieved of her duties Oct. 24.

The Harrisburg Town Council recently voted not to renew her contract and removed her without pay until her contract ended Nov. 30. Reapsmith was hired as finance director in 2009 and was appointed town administrator in 2010.

"I can't tell you the exact status of (the investigation) at this point because I don't know," said Rich Koch, Harrisburg's town attorney for 18 years. "But they are looking at some financial transactions. I'd like to let it play out and see what the investigation yields before commenting. Just stay tuned."

Representatives from the sheriff's office could not be reached for comment for this story. Reapsmith also was unreachable.

If charges arise from the sheriff's office investigation, the district attorney will evaluate and determine the offense, said Koch. As of Dec. 6, the district attorney's office did not have a record of the investigation because no charges had been filed.

Koch, also the attorney for Cabarrus County, said he and the town council hope to know more soon.

"This is a first for Harrisburg that I'm aware of," said Koch. "We've had issues with employees at times, but I can't think of another situation like this, where we've turned something over to the sheriff's office.

"We've had something similar at the county level involving a contractor whose financial transactions were questionable.... That case took a couple of years to resolve."

Harrisburg has been through three town administrators - a role similar to that of a city manager - in four years. Council member Bob Scaggs said Reapsmith was not the person recommended by the N.C. Councils of Governments.

"But we hired her anyway," he said. "The council decided to hire her over the opinion of a consulting firm, whose recommendation we paid for. I wasn't present to vote, but would have voted against it."

A red flag went up for council members during Reapsmith's contract review process, said Scaggs.

"No one was aware of any issues up until the week before we let her go," said Scaggs. "The staff mentioned some things that caused the council to stop and review what was going on.

"Once we were made aware of some circumstances, it was pretty immediate. I don't know if 'internal investigation' is the right word, but we did an internal review and came to a decision in a couple of days."

Scaggs, a technology manager with Wells Fargo, has lived in Harrisburg for 12 years and was on the council for four years. He said the council was taken by surprised.

"I think there was a time (Reapsmith) was performing with the town's best interest in mind, but obviously that changed at some point in time," said Scaggs. "It was an absolute shock. It was a shock to the entire council.

"With the investigation open, we can't disclose much right now without jeopardizing the investigation itself. We've been asked to not talk about any of the charges that we've made or what we've turned over."

Scaggs said he heard Reapsmith had left town.