CONCORD, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — The Cabarrus County District Attorney’s Office said Thursday it had requested “outside assistance” in the investigation into allegations of fraud and collusion against Board of Commissioners Chairman Steve Morris.

District Attorney Ashlie Shanley’s office issued a statement saying the decision to seek outside help was made “in the interest of fairness.”

“The District Attorney reviewed preliminary SBI reports, and learned that Cabarrus County Commissioners are on both sides of this matter. Although no legal conflict would bar this office from proceeding, due to the District Attorney’s extensive work with all Cabarrus County Commissioners and in the interests of fairness, the District Attorney has decided to seek outside assistance pursuant to NCGS 7A-64,” officials said.

The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation previously confirmed they are investigating the allegations against Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners Chairman Steve Morris.

The agency said District Attorney Shanley referred the case to them in January.

A statement from Shanley revealed Richard Wise, Town of Midland councilman was the initial complainant, and that her referral to the SBI was “standard procedure”:

“The Cabarrus County District Attorney’s office followed standard procedure when a request was made by Richard Wise that the State Bureau of Investigations look into a claim regarding the County Commission. When a request is made to our office for an investigation, our office forwards that request to the SBI. Our office would follow the same procedure if a complaint was made on anyone else in the community. The District Attorney’s Office does not investigate any complaints and makes no assertion about the validity of the claim when making a referral to the SBI. Our office forwarded the complaint we received at the beginning of the year and are awaiting a report from the SBI.”

Wise told Queen City News that he did not want to discuss the investigation or his reasoning for reporting Morris to the DA. However, he has spoken numerous times at Cabarrus County Commission meetings regarding his concerns over Morris receiving payments from the City of Kannapolis.

Cabarrus County Commission Vice Chairman Lynn Shue said he believes these payments are the reasoning behind the investigation.

“[Wise] has been a thorn in our flesh for a couple of years now, to be honest with you,” Shue said. “I’ve personally got nothing against the man, but he undoubtedly has got a vendetta against us.”

Morris was the previous owner of the historic Gem Theatre in downtown Kannapolis. Last summer, he sold the theatre and its trademark to the city of Kannapolis for $475,000. The city also agreed to pay him $6,250 per month to help operate the theatre for at least two years.

“How can you be objective on items coming for a vote in this chamber involving Kannapolis, when they are paying you so much money?” asked Wise at a commission meeting in October 2022.

Morris told Queen City News that he sees the investigation as a political play before an election year.

“I think it’s probably just a normal business transaction,” said Morris. “It is one that has been the culmination of a number of years, and I don’t see anything questionable or inappropriate about it at all.”

The SBI has not released a timeline for its investigation.

The Administrative Office of Courts appointed the 33rd Prosecutorial District to assist with the review.