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Independent Audit Finds Nearly $500,000 In Personal Spending At SEANC

Courtesy of SEANC

An independent audit of North Carolina’s largest state employee association has found its former executive director spent nearly $500,000 for personal expenses that had nothing to with the association's work. 

For 15 years, Dana Cope was the executive director of the State Employees Association of North Carolina, or SEANC. It’s part of the Service Employees International Union and represents some 55,000 current and former state workers. Then, in February, Dana Cope resigned.

"In recent days I have come to the realization that in carrying out the duties of my job I have blurred the line between my personal life and my professional life. By tendering my resignation today I take full responsibility for my shortcomings."

The realization was prompted by a report in the News and Observer which used internal documents to show Cope was using fake invoices for SEANC funds to pay for personal expenses.  

Now we have a better idea of just how much he spent and on what.

  • More than $94,000 billed to SEANC for landscaping work done at the group’s headquarters. The independent audit found just $14,000 of that was legitimate, the remaining $80,000 deemed “excessive” by the auditors. That company was also doing work on Dana Cope’s home.
  • $21,000 of SEANC dues spent to send Cope to flying school. Cope claimed his extensive travel schedule meant this could actually save SEANC money. The auditors found no such savings and no reason these costs should be paid by SEANC. In fact, the audit questions $55,000 of airline bills Cope charged to SEANC including $15,000 on a trip to China, that bill included tickets for his wife and two children.

The list goes on

  • $4,500 on a Hong Kong based tailor
  • $6,000 on patio furniture
  • $15,000 at Best Buy
  • $2,000 on iTunes

All expenses deemed to be of no value to the association or lacking any documentation to justify the expense. The grand total for these expenses over two years amounted to $494,000.
Just before Cope resigned, SEANC blasted the original report by the News and Observer saying an internal investigation by the group’s board had cleared Cope of all wrongdoing. They had posted their findings on SEANC’s website. That report has now been taken down. In a note to members, SEANC’s new executive director writes:

The results of the audit are clear: Our former executive director, Mr. Dana Cope, grossly misused SEANC credit cards and misappropriated SEANC funds for personal gain.

He adds an effort to recoup all the funds is well underway.

Tom Bullock decided to trade the khaki clad masses and traffic of Washington DC for Charlotte in 2014. Before joining WFAE, Tom spent 15 years working for NPR. Over that time he served as everything from an intern to senior producer of NPR’s Election Unit. Tom also spent five years as the senior producer of NPR’s Foreign Desk where he produced and reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Haiti, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon among others. Tom is looking forward to finally convincing his young daughter, Charlotte, that her new hometown was not, in fact, named after her.