Newly-elected council member under SBI investigation

SANDY CREEK, NC (WECT) - Amid an investigation into use of vacation and sick leave, a former Sandy Creek town clerk was elected to town council.

A representative with the Brunswick County Sheriff's Office said the investigation into Tina Colby has been passed on to the State Bureau of Investigation.

Colby and her sister, Anna Knapp, both won council seats over the man who accused Colby of breaking the law. In May, former councilman Steve Permenter questioned why Colby was working part-time, but receiving full-time benefits.

He presented WECT with several time sheets he was able to secure showing sick time being marked by Colby in 2016 and 2017 after the clerk's hours were reduced from full time. Permenter also provided a copy of the town's policy manual which stipulates sick leave is for regular, full-time employees.

"My hope is that they can serve the best interests of the town," Permenter said in a statement Tuesday morning. "But my fear is that they will find ways to continue to divide this town and serve their own interests."

Knapp said both she and Colby would not be willing to comment on the election victory. Detectives did not give any more details on the investigation, only that it is ongoing.

Regardless of the investigation's findings, the leaders need to focus on the making the future of the town the best it can be.

"These folks need to take full advantage of all opportunities to learn about city and county government," Chris May, director of Cape Fear Council of Governments, said. "It's not something you learn in a day. It's not something you learn from one or two meetings. It's very complex."

May was first introduced to the controversy in Sandy Creek when he volunteered to help the town in May. The longtime director helped town leaders learn the basics of governing.

"You are elected because you are interested and show a desire to serve the community," May said. "But then you have to learn what the rules are and what the tools are so you can come in and be most effective."

May is urging all of Sandy Creek's elected officials to attend governing sessions provided by the UNC School of Government.

"They need to find a way to work together to make it work," May said. "Not only for the people there now, but for the people of tomorrow."

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