Auditor Says Mental Health Center's Salaries Excessive

An state audit of the public mental health service in northeastern North Carolina has concluded salaries for top managers were excessive.

Last year, the board of the Albemarle Mental Health Center agreed to pay director Charlie Franklin an annual salary and benefits totaling $319,000. The board reduced his pay in July by $94,000 amid scrutiny from Gov. Mike Easley and other state officials.

State Auditor Les Merritt's office said the center improperly used state and federal funds to pay for Franklin's salary. The audit also found the expenses of board members were excessive.

The center disagreed with most of the auditor's findings and says Franklin's new compensation package is appropriate.

Merritt's review also says the center's shortcomings reflect the need for streamlined fiscal procedures for all mental health centers statewide. The regional centers have taken on larger roles as part of the state's mental health reforms.

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