Letters detail reasons for East Spencer police firings

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 5, 2011

By Karissa Minn
kminn@salisburypost.com
EAST SPENCER — The two head police officers in East Spencer were fired for trying to keep other town officials in the dark about departmental business, the town said in notices of dismissal released Thursday.
Police Chief Floyd Baldo and Assistant Police Chief Tim Wooten were fired July 20. Their dismissal notices dated July 18 are signed by East Spencer Mayor John Cowan and Town Clerk and interim Town Administrator Anneissa Hyde.
Both notices say Baldo and Wooten were fired because they “engaged in personal conduct detrimental to the town” that adversely affected the town of East Spencer’s budgeting ability.
According to Baldo’s dismissal letter, he failed to follow established town protocol when he gave an employment offer to James Garland Young. The document dated April 3 was labeled as an official action but had not been approved by the town board.
In the offer, Baldo said the town would recognize 493 hours of Young’s previously accrued sick leave time with the Kernersville Police Department, his dismissal letter said.
The town said this exceeded the scope of his authority as chief of police, and Baldo did not get approval from the board for the $6,688 liability, which would require a budget amendment.
“You are well aware of this procedure, because expenditures without advance board approval was a known issue in the discontinuance of the Governor’s Crime Control Grant as early as February, 2011,” the letter said.
Baldo also failed to seek advance approval from Hyde, who is considered a town budget officer, before sending any potential new hire for psychological evaluation, the notice said.
In addition, it said Baldo failed to properly supervise Wooten, a subordinate employee. It called his response to the assistant chief’s insubordination “woefully inadequate, due to the seriousness of the breach of chain of command.”
That insubordination is the subject of Wooten’s dismissal letter.
The week before the notice was written, it says, Wooten withheld police department scheduling information from Hyde when she asked for it multiple times.
“Your response implied that there was some unknown security concern that sharing this information with the interim town administrator would compromise the town’s law enforcement abilities by enabling lawbreakers to know when and how many officers are scheduled to be on duty,” the letter said.
According to the notice, Wooten also refused to let Hyde sit in on a police procedures discussion regarding a workers compensation claim, which did not involve any police investigation.
Both letters stressed the importance of proper monitoring and approval of expenses to keeping the town within its budget.
After Baldo and Wooten were fired two weeks ago, the town of East Spencer appointed Darren Westmoreland acting police chief.
Not mentioned in the dismissal notices were two wrongful termination lawsuits filed against the town this summer by two of its former police officers.
Jason Sawyer filed suit on June 30. He alleges Baldo fired him due to religious discrimination, as well as in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim and/or for filing a complaint with the Rowan County District Attorney’s Office.
On July 15, Cassandra Rankin also filed suit, claiming she was both harassed and fired because of her sex and race.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.

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