The Brunswick County Sheriff's Office will continue policing Southport while an audit of the city's police department takes place.
At a Thursday evening meeting, Southport's Board of Aldermen unanimously approved the city's continued use of BCSO in the wake of the Southport's police force being placed on paid leave. That decision came after Police Chief Gary Smith and Lieutenant Michael Christian Simmons were suspended following their arrests on charges of conspiracy to obtain property by false pretenses, willful failure to discharge duties and obstruction of justice.
A Brunswick County grand jury indicted Smith and Simmons on corruption charges Thursday.
City manager Bruce Oakley said the Brunswick County Sheriff's Office has been providing services free of charge, but will begin being paid by the city Monday. Oakley reported it will cost the city $1,700 per day.
The Board of Aldermen voted to hire an outside firm to conduct an investigation/audit of the Southport police department, which Oakley said would take up to 60 days. That firm is expected to begin work in Southport next week. The audit could cost the city as much as $36,000.
The costs of the audit and the sheriff's deputies will be paid through the city's contingency fund.
"The board has a fund they set aside that they budget every year for circumstances like this in case an emergency arises," Oakley said. "We don't use it because then it goes back in the general fund, but we have money set aside for special events or occasions that happen."
Oakley said the board hopes to reinstate officers before the audit is finished.
"I requested the board tonight to hire a firm to do an internal investigation/audit of the police department to see what other issues there may be so we can start fresh and have everything working well when we bring our forces back," he said. "They'll stay on paid leave and our hope is that through the audit process, we'll get to a point where we can bring them back while the audit is still going on."
The board will hold a meeting to update the public on the audit process on Aug. 29 at 5 p.m.
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