Kiawah keeps quiet on financial probe

Kiawah Island Mayor Charles Lipuma

Kiawah Island officials remained tight-lipped about a planned forensic audit that the town said is happening in response to alleged improper financial transactions by one or more town employees.

Mayor Charles Lipuma, who requested the audit, on Tuesday night referred questions about the situation to Councilman John Wilson, whom Lipuma appointed as the Council representative for the investigation.

Wilson said Wednesday that he could not yet talk about the probe.

“At this stage things are so uncertain that I really can’t comment. We expect, hopefully in the next two or three weeks, to comment more fully. It’s really too difficult or sensitive to say anything more,” he said.

Lipuma asked town attorney Dennis Rhoad to hire an independent accounting firm to investigate the allegations, the town said Tuesday on its website.

The audit will determine the specific nature, scope and validity of the allegations, the town said.

Another official statement posted Tuesday on the Kiawah website said that Treasurer Kenneth Gunnells was no longer with the town and resigned last Thursday.

On Friday, Lipuma said in an interview that Gunnells resigned unexpectedly after a disagreement with Lipuma about an issue the mayor said he was not at liberty to discuss.

“He (Gunnells) was unhappy with this matter so he resigned. I told him that I was disappointed that he was resigning and if he had a change of heart to let me know,” Lipuma said.

Gunnells had been town treasurer since 2007.

No one has answered repeated calls to a number that the town said is Gunnells’ home phone. Leaving a voicemail message at the number was not possible.

The town said it has hired a professional search firm to find replacements for Gunnells and 10-year Town Administrator Tumiko Rucker, who told The Post and Courier on May 7 that she will leave her job on June 30 to pursue other opportunities.

“She has served the town effectively and professionally and we wish her well,” Lipuma said recently of Rucker.