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CAPE FEAR MEMORIAL BRIDGE CLOSURE: UPDATES, RESOURCES, AND CONTEXT

Court recordings reveal outgoing county commissioner applied for a job at county-funded facility

New Hanover County Chair Julia Olson-Boseman.
New Hanover County
/
NHC
New Hanover County Chair Julia Olson-Boseman.

Julia Olson-Boseman, the chair of New Hanover County’s Board of Commissioners, was in court last month. Under oath, she provided several revelations about her spending habits, drug and alcohol use, and her attempt to get a job at a facility she championed as a commissioner, and which the county is helping to fund.

Over the past 18 months allegations against New Hanover County Commission Chairwoman Julia Olson-Boseman have continued to stack up. From an investigation by the North Carolina State Bar for allegedly mishandling client funds — to the alleged offer of $50 million of money to a local nonprofit — residents and state officials have all voiced concerns.

Now court testimony reveals a possible conflict of interest: in late September Olson-Boseman applied for a job at The Healing Place, the county-funded facility that she championed as county chairwoman. According to Olson-Boseman’s testimony, she wasn’t qualified for the facility director position but was told The Healing Place would ‘find a place' for her in the organization.

Olson-Boseman also admitted under oath to daily drug and alcohol use from the beginning of this year through July – and spending nearly all of the $118,000 she transferred from a joint marital bank account while her family was on vacation in Italy.

WHQR and WECT obtained court recordings where Olson-Boseman is dealing with two different familial matters. While these personal matters are not something that are typically covered, the allegations of mishandling of money, admissions of substance abuse, and the possible conflict of interest as the Chair of the Board of Commissioners seeking employment with a facility funded with county money are of public interest.

The Healing Place

The Healing Place is a new treatment facility that New Hanover County took out loans for $24 million to construct. The facility hit several rounds of controversy over the last four years, includingpushback when the county applied for a Special-Use Permit required to build it within Wilmington city limits. There was also frustration, including from a commissioner, when Trillium pulled a bait-and-switch, replacing Wilmington-based Coastal Horizons with Kentucky-based The Healing Place, and effectively eliminated medically-assisted treatment (MAT) from the facility’s approach in favor of peer-led abstinence.

Through it all, Olson-Boseman was a staunch advocate for the facility – at times citing her own experience with drug and alcohol use, and subsequent recovery, as the inspiration for supporting the abstinence-based facility.

While the funding structure for The Healing Place is somewhat complicated, the county plays a major role, which includes providing support for 50 of the facility’s 200 beds in the annual county budget.

Now, according to sworn testimony given by Olson-Boseman on September 28, she applied for and has been offered a position working at The Healing Place.

“Yes, I actually interviewed for a job yesterday at The Healing Place… it’s a new 200-bed facility that's been opening up, 100 beds for women and 100 beds for men. The position I applied for, facilities manager, is not one they said that — I knew I wasn’t fit for, but they did say they’d be happy to, they were going to find a place for me in that organization,” she said.

In an email response to a request for an interview, Olson-Boseman addressed her application, writing, “ I am trying to move on with my life and find a job doing something I’m passionate about. That’s why I applied for a job at The Healing Place. I have not used my status or involvement in any way in that process, but I’m sure your reporting will ensure I don’t get that job and opportunity anyway.”

The Healing Place of Kentucky did not respond to a request for comment about Olson-Boseman’s application. None of Olson-Boseman’s colleagues on the Board of Commissioners responded to a request for comment about a potential conflict of interest.

Financial questions

Finances have been a major part of the controversies surrounding Olson-Boseman. The allegations of mishandling client funds from when she practiced law to draining a joint bank account of roughly $118,000 in July — judges are now ordering her to tell them where that money went.

The State Bar successfully received an order from a Wake County judge for Olson-Boseman to turn over banking records related to her business account. Now, family court Judge Elizabeth Keever wants her to provide a record of how she spent the money from the shared account with her wife.

In an attempt to determine what marital assets are at stake in the separation between Olson-Boseman and her wife, Angie Olson-Boseman, Julia Olson-Boseman was also questioned in court during a September 26 hearing about a significant payday that netted her over $800,000. Olson-Boseman confirmed these were proceeds from her law firm, which she said previously was shuttered when she retired in January 2021.

Her attorney, Chris Johnson, asked the court to redact identifying details of the case, which was identified only as a personal injury settlement, but on the stand Olson-Boseman confirmed she deposited two checks — one for $666,666.66 on September 22, 2021 and one for $161,000 on October 9, 2021 — from cases she described as being “connected.” She also said she had not yet paid taxes on those earnings.

Olson-Boseman said she spent a lot of this money on a number of things including home furnishings, repair, and additions, a car, a boat, a golf cart, and other ‘personal expenses.’

Olson-Boseman also admitted to taking the money from the sale of a boat, a check for $50,000 that was made payable jointly to Olson-Boseman and her wife. Olson-Boseman admitted she deposited the check into her own account without her wife’s signature on it. Asked whether the money was still in her account, Olson-Boseman said it too is spent.

At the September 26 hearing, Olson-Boseman said she had roughly $700 left, having apparently spent the last of the money over the course of just one month in the summer.

According to court records, attorney Lori Rosbrugh, who represents Angie Olson-Boseman, questioned Julia Olson-Boseman about the drawdown from her bank accounts. The $118,000 that she had taken from her joint account had been transferred to a business account, used to fund her party-bus company, Odyssey Party Bus.

“Where is it now?” Rosbrugh asked, referring to the money.

“Spent,” Olson-Boseman replied.

“You spent $118,000 since July 25?” Rosbrugh continued.

“More than that, yes,” Olson-Boseman said.

After additional follow-up questions, concerning the $50,000 boat-sale proceeds, Rosbrugh asked, “So do you have any money remaining in any of [the] accounts that are in your name right now?”

Olson-Boseman replied that she had roughly $700 dollars left across all those accounts.

“So you went from 118 plus 50 — $168,000,” Rosbrugh asked, “down to $700, in one month?”

Olson-Boseman answered, “correct.”

At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Keever ordered an accounting of all funds in all accounts that Olson-Boseman and her wife held in personal or joint accounts from the period between June 1 and August 31. They were given 30 days from the September 26 hearing to provide those records.

Relapse

Olson-Boseman has been public about her personal struggles with substance use and went to treatment in 2013. However, during a September 28 court hearing regarding custody matters, she admitted she had been using drugs and alcohol on a daily basis until recently.

An attorney asked Olson-Boseman if she had been using cannabis or THC-containing drugs.

“Yes,” Olson-Boseman responded.

“You're doing all these things daily? Is that what you said?” the attorney asked her.

“Yes,” she responded again.

“When you use these drugs, would you get to the state that you wouldn't be able to drive him if you had to,” the attorney asked, referring to her ability to care for her son.

“I have such a high tolerance for drugs that they don’t really even hardly affect me,” Olson-Boseman said.

Olson-Boseman was adamant she was not intoxicated around her son, but did acknowledge that her daily drug and alcohol use lasted from January to the end of July. She told the court she is now ‘back in the rooms,’ meaning a 12-step recovery program.

Again, none of the other four members of the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners responded to requests for comment on concerns about Olson-Boseman’s actions. A spokesperson for New Hanover County also declined to comment.

Olson-Boseman declined a request for a sitdown interview to discuss her attempt to seek employment at The Healing Place, her financial issues, and her drug and alcohol use.

In email response, she wrote:

I know that because I am a public figure you all feel like you need to investigate the very personal and gut-wrenching details of my life, but I feel like I have been through enough and it’s time to stop trying to twist my personal life to sell stories. You don’t have all the facts about the money you are referring to, but I can’t discuss it because of the ongoing court case. I went to treatment in 2013 for addiction and am now back in AA meetings, and I am committed to being sober for my son and making sure I can protect him and be there for him. And I am trying to move on with my life and find a job doing something I’m passionate about. That’s why I applied for a job at The Healing Place. I have not used my status or involvement in any way in that process, but I’m sure your reporting will ensure I don’t get that job and opportunity anyway. Have I made mistakes in my personal life? Yes. I think we all have. But mine are just on show for everyone’s entertainment it would seem. My role as a Commissioner has never been compromised, as the media has made it appear, and my commitment to make a difference and help people has never faltered. But you fail to report on all of the good things I have done, because that doesn’t sell stories.

Ben Schachtman is a journalist and editor with a focus on local government accountability. He began reporting for Port City Daily in the Wilmington area in 2016 and took over as managing editor there in 2018. He’s a graduate of Rutgers College and later received his MA from NYU and his PhD from SUNY-Stony Brook, both in English Literature. He loves spending time with his wife and playing rock'n'roll very loudly. You can reach him at BSchachtman@whqr.org and find him on Twitter @Ben_Schachtman.