Tom McDevitt resigned from the mental health agency under pressure in 2008, amid controversy that he was using his position for personal gain. One of the allegations was that he had retroactively altered his employment start date to get better benefits under the state retirement system.
That in turn led to censure by the North Carolina State Board of CPA examiners. McDevitt, who is now the director of a mental health nonprofit called Evergreen Foundation in Waynesville, initially fought the reprimand — mostly on principle.
McDevitt said he was the target of a “political vendetta” being propagated by his successors at Smoky Mountain Center.
“The reality is I don’t use my CPA license,” McDevitt said. But, “I wasn’t going to agree to something I didn’t do.”
After spending $20,000 on attorney’s fees, however, he has now thrown in the towel. He permanently relinquished his license in lieu of further disciplinary action by the State Board of CPA Examiners.
“I very quickly realized I was fighting a continuing political issue. I consented to it because I just wanted it over with,” McDevitt said. “It was illuminating what length people will go to try to ruin you.”
Smoky Mountain Center has sued Evergreen for unjust enrichment, claiming that McDevitt’s nonprofit is hording money and property that rightfully belong to Smoky Mountain Center. The two entities were once linked, but have become estranged since McDevitt’s departure from Smoky Mountain Center.
McDevitt’s official start date as a state employee had been recorded as Aug. 15, 1984. At that time, state employees didn’t have to pay taxes on their state retirement benefits. The state changed that policy several years later. Anyone hired after Aug. 12, 1984, would have to pay taxes on their retirement benefits.
Those hired before then would be grandfathered in under the old policy. It seemed McDevitt’s start date was three days shy of the window that would have grandfathered him in.
In 2006 — more than two decades after his official start date in the state employee system had been recorded — McDevitt set about officially altering that start date to Aug. 1, 1984.
“By requesting his employer change his employment date, (McDevitt) sought to gain monetarily by avoiding taxes that he thought would otherwise be owed on his retirement benefit,” according to a case summary filed by the CPA Examiners Board.
But McDevitt said that was not the case.
Ironically, shifting his start date backwards didn’t actually have any advantages. He wouldn’t have had to pay taxes on his retirement benefits anyway.
“In the state retirement system, you always go back to the first day of the month in the month you were hired in when calculating benefits. Whether it was the 31st or the 1st it didn’t matter,” McDevitt said.
But the state CPA Examiner’s board questioned McDevitt’s motives, regardless of whether he actually gained anything.