It looks like some efforts by state government may have actually saved taxpayers nearly a quarter-million dollars, at least for the time being.

Andy Curliss of the News & Observer reports that the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center board has voted to take control of the $241,000 severance account and not disperse it to the center’s now retired president, Billy Ray Hall.

Hall resigned this month after an audit by state Auditor Beth Wood found a number of improprieties at the center. Since the audit, the General Assembly voted to discontinue appropriations for the center and set up a new Division of Rural Economic Development within the Commerce Department.

Wood’s audit said that Hall’s salary of $221,070 was excessive, and chided the center for being “misleading” in its response to the audit.

The $241,000 severance figure appears to be a bit excessive to me. First of all, why give any severance at all to someone who leaves the center under such a cloud.

Secondly, aren’t severances generally based on the longevity of the employee. Hall had headed the center since its inception 26 years ago. If Hall were to have gotten one week’s pay for every year he’d been employed by the center, the severance would have totaled $110,535. Even if he got a generous two weeks pay per year employed, it would be $221,070, nearly $20,000 less than the money on the severance account.

After the audit came out, the governor’s office directed the Rural Center to stop spending state money until corrective action was taken.