A state audit last week confirmed concerns first raised when we reported that former Pitt-Greenville Airport Authority Chief James Turcotte held the seventh-highest pension among all state and local retirees. He's now receiving more than $173,000 a year because his base salary was boosted by several enhancements that the authority paid little or no attention to during much of his tenure.
The audit reports that Turcotte boosted his pay regularly without board approval and that his total compensation was not being provided to the board. For example, from 2005 to 2009, Turcotte received more than $71,000 for unused vacation time without going to the board for approval.
The audit found that in Turcotte's final full year of employment, he received more than $283,000 in pay -- at least $68,000 more than the heads of the much larger airports in Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham.
The airport board disputed some findings, but agreed that it should seek reimbursement of $16,000 in "limbo leave" that Turcotte had inappropriately received. The leave consisted of vacation time that Turcotte carried over from previous years.
We had reported Turcotte's pension as part of our reports last year that looked into the state's personnel law, which at the time was among the most secretive in the nation. Lawmakers removed some of those restrictions, allowing Greenville resident Terry Boardman to query the board about Turcotte's pay history. The board's report, showing tens of thousands of dollars in additional pay that had not been disclosed to the full board, triggered the state audit.
Boardman, an East Carolina University instructor, said in an email message that he has now asked the Attorney General's office to investigate. He said the way Turcotte boosted his compensation in his final years, and thereby increased his pension, needs to be looked at for possible fraud.