Top two officers fired in East Spencer

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 19, 2011

EAST SPENCER — The town of East Spencer fired its police chief and assistant police chief Monday, Mayor John Cowan announced Tuesday.
At a called meeting Monday night, the East Spencer Board of Aldermen voted after a closed session to dismiss Chief Floyd Baldo and Assistant Chief Tim Wooten from the East Spencer Police Department.
“Further information may not be released for approximately two weeks,” Cowan wrote in an email to the Post, “to afford the former employees an opportunity to review the written notices of dismissal prior to their release as required under the Public Records Act.”
Baldo did not return calls for comment Tuesday.
The dismissals are the second major blow in a month for the department, which also was hit recently with the loss of a gang prevention grant.
A report released Friday by the Office of the State Auditor said that the town of East Spencer had misappropriated funds.
Baldo said Friday he was not a part of the administration that made decisions regarding the $540,000 grant, which was awarded over two years by the N.C. Governor’s Crime Commission in May 2009.
In August 2010, Baldo became the town’s fifth police chief since 2005. He had been serving as interim chief of the East Spencer Police Department after the former chief, Ron Hines, resigned in May 2010.
State Auditor Beth Wood said Friday there is no evidence that the town intentionally misrepresented their plans for the grant funds and “it was more of a misunderstanding.”
According to the report, East Spencer used the money to pay the salaries of two police officers who did not primarily focus on gang activities, in violation of the grant requirements. The report also said the town failed to report management personnel changes, which created inadequate segregation of duties.
Town officials told the Office of the State Auditor that they believed they were spending the money appropriately because the Crime Commission approved the use of funds for patrol officers.
The grant money has been suspended, and the Crime Commission is still investigating if East Spencer will have to repay funds.