Cabarrus Co. commission chair under investigation by SBI

WBTV Investigates: Chairman Steve Morris said he had no knowledge of the investigation
The Chairman of the Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners, Steve Morris, is under investigation by the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation.
Updated: May. 2, 2023 at 11:45 AM EDT
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KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (WBTV) - The Chairman of the Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners, Steve Morris, is under investigation by the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation.

The N.C. State Bureau of Investigation confirmed its probe into Chairman Steve Morris in an email stating the Chairman is being investigated for allegations of collusion and fraud.

The SBI’s statement confirming the investigation did not contain any details or specifics about the allegations against Morris.

“In January of 2023, the SBI received a request from the District Attorney to investigate allegations of potential collusion and fraud involving the Chairman of the Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners. The investigation remains ongoing,” SBI Public Information Director Anjanette Grube wrote in an email.

In a phone interview with WBTV, Morris said he wasn’t aware of the investigation until WBTV reached out to him.

Morris said he had not been contacted by the SBI or Cabarrus County District Attorney Ashlie Stanley regarding the investigation.

“I don’t know anything about it and so I don’t have anything to say about it,” Morris said.

Morris speculated the investigation could be related to someone disgruntled about his work on the Board of Commissioners.

WBTV also emailed DA Stanley about her referral to the SBI. She has not responded to WBTV’s request for an interview.

Morris has been an elected member of the Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners since 2012. He was re-appointed Chair of the County Commission last December in a 3-2 vote with Commissioners Barbara Strang and Chris Measmer voting in opposition. Commissioners Morris, Lynn Shue and Kenneth Wortman voted in support of his appointment.

In addition to his elected office, Morris has owned and operated the Gem Theatre in Kannapolis for more than a decade. While the building is owned by City of Kannapolis, public records show Morris owns the operations of the theatre and has served as either the President or Vice-President of the Gem Theatre, Inc. since 1996.

In June 2022, Kannapolis City Council approved a resolution to purchase Gem Theatre, Inc. from Morris. The city would acquire all stock and assets of Morris’ company in a “fee-for-service” agreement with Morris where he would serve as manager of theatre operations as a liaison for the City Parks and Recreation Director for two years.

In its budget, city council approved spending $150,000 for the purchase of Gem Theatre stock (another $150,000 is scheduled for the FY24 budget) and $175,000 for the theatre’s assets. The budget also shows $735,545 in Parks and Rec charges and fees for the operation of the Gem Theatre.

On April 24th, Kannapolis City Council passed a resolution to apply for a Rural Transformation Grant for the Gem Theatre. If chosen, the theatre could receive up to $950,000 in grants.