On Aug. 17, Manager of Wake County Jim Hartmann announced that he would be stepping down with his last day being Oct. 27.
Hartmann served as county manager for three and half years before he decided to resign.
“I’m proud of the work that the Board of Commissioners, staff and I have accomplished during my tenure here,” said Hartmann in a statement with WRAL.
Hartmann wrote in his resignation, “I know some will believe my resignation is connected with the coverage on the fraud audit and investigation into the office of one of the county’s other elected officials. That is not the case and not a factor in my decision.”
Hartmann will work with commissioners while an interim county manager is selected and will work to develop a process for hiring a permanent replacement.
His resignation comes in the wake of an audit scandal surrounding the Wake County Register of Deeds Office, where $606,000 went missing over the past two years. Employees of the office found unbalanced books in January as they were trying to improve cash-handling systems; Hartmann brought in county auditors to go over the irregularities.
District Attorney Lorren Freeman called the State Bureau of Investigation to assist in the discovery. On June 30, Freeman stated that the irregular books are disappointing and troubling.
“I think that anytime it appears that an office has been managed in a way that money cannot be accounted for, that is a violation of the public trust,” said Freeman.
According to WRAL News, employees in the office thought their boss, former Register of Deeds Laura Riddick, was behind the scandal after a test was conducted by the employees themselves. The employees of the Deeds Office changed the cash-handling procedure for eight days to find where the money went missing. They found that between $200 to $800 went missing every day after the cash had left the office of Riddick. Riddick had been out of the office on one occasion, and it was found that no money was missing.
Riddick had served as registrar for 20 years before she retired in March for health reasons concerning her heart. Her attorney, Joe Zeszotarski, did not comment on the situation.
No criminal charges have been filed, though Troy Ellis, a technician that had worked in the deeds office, was fired on April 5 after he confessed he took $50,000 in the last year. Ellis is cooperating with investigators on the issue while the Deeds Office recovers.