DA reviewing cases involving fired officer

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 8, 2013

SALISBURY — The Rowan District Attorney’s Office says it’s reviewing cases investigated by a former Salisbury police officer the city fired and called dishonest and insubordinate.
But former officer Kenny Lane maintains he wasn’t disciplined until after he complained about unsafe Taser training at the Police Department.
He says the city’s recent letter upholding his termination begs more questions than it answers.
Sitting in the office of his attorney David Shelby this week, Lane outlined areas in City Manager Doug Paris’ letter he felt were incorrect and often too vague to refute.
But Lane said he had seen the writing on the wall.
“Disappointing, but expected,” he said, of receiving the determination.
The letter, which was emailed to the Post on Friday, said Lane was insubordinate in 2011 and 2012. It also said the 22-year veteran wasn’t accurate or truthful in his comments to investigators or to Paris.
Lane was fired last fall after he sent a memo to department heads questioning officer safety weeks after a Taser training session.
His supervisors responded by saying he was insubordinate at the mandatory training and was later fired.
“That unfortunately seems to be the way the city operates,” Lane said of the letter. “They’re more interested in covering for something than addressing the problem.”
Paris wrote in his letter that Lane also refused to answer a question posed by then-Human Resources Manager Ruth Kennerly while Lane was under Garrity Rights, which protect government employees from incriminating themselves during a criminal investigation.
Lane said Kennerly isn’t an officer and her question wasn’t protected by Garrity. He also said investigators refused to disclose what possible criminal activity they were investigating during the Garrity interview.
Throughout the letter, Shelby, his attorney, rattled off issues he found with the arguments.
One of Shelby’s biggest questions, he said, was the delayed insubordination claim following the Taser training.
“Why then was he not written up for insubordination for that event? It’s only after he sends a memorandum to a supervisor about the safety of the training that he is then told he was insubordinate,” Shelby argued. “You’ve got a 21-day period. For 21 days there was no issue of insubordination then he writes a memo complaining about the safety and the manner of which the training occurred and it’s, ‘Oh, you were insubordinate.’ ”
Lane and Shelby also said the letter was vague to a point that made it difficult to respond. Lane charges the ambiguity was intentional.
“I think that’s deliberate because the only thing they put that really was specific is that I lied in the memo. Once I was polygraphed on that and it came back ‘no deception,’ I think they learned a valuable lesson — don’t use any specifics because you can be proved wrong,” Lane said.
In an email response Wednesday, Elaney Hasselmann, public information officer for the city, countered by saying the letter was “in fact, very specific.”
Hasselmann reprinted several items from Paris’ original letter mentioning the insubordination claims and truthfulness allegations.
Hasselmann said Kennerly, the former Human Resources director, authored Lane’s termination letter “due to the serious nature of his insubordination and untruthfulness.”
But the question of Lane’s truthfulness didn’t warrant an immediate suspension in 2012, following the Taser training.
Lane said he continued to wield arrest powers and process investigations in the two months before his termination.
Hasselmann said he wasn’t suspended immediately following the training because the insubordination claim had not yet been established.
“His current acts of insubordination and dishonesty were confirmed in November 2012 and a personnel action was taken at that time,” she said.
Hasselmann said Lane was suspended in 2011 after he was cited for insubordination. The discipline report said “acts of defiance or disrespect for the chief of police or any supervisory command level staff will not be tolerated.” The city said he was moved from evidence custodian to patrol officer the same month.
When asked if Lane’s alleged untruthfulness would compromise the investigations he conducted, Hasselmann said Rowan County District Attorney Brandy Cook had been notified of the circumstances surrounding his firing and referred questions to her office.
In an email response Thursday, Cook said her office is reviewing the cases Lane was involved in.
“Our office will review any pending criminal cases involving former Officer Lane and make a determination on how to proceed with the prosecution on a case-by-case basis,” Cook wrote.
Police Chief Rory Collins deferred comments on the firing to Hasselmann.
Hasselmann said the department does not have a policy requiring administrators to put officers on leave after a second disciplinary action.
Lane and the city also differed on whether former District Attorney Bill Kenerly wrote a letter warning the Police Department about allegations of excessive force and its possible ramifications.
In February, Lane told the Post he spoke to several people who saw or heard of the letter.
City officials say Kenerly told them he didn’t issue such a document.
Kenerly told the Post he couldn’t be sure, but the letter doesn’t seem like the type he would write.
“I don’t remember writing any such letter,” Kenerly said. “The way it’s been described to me — it’s not the type of thing I would have requested. We request investigation of incidents, specific things that happened, not rumors or gossip.”
Lane said he went to Shelby with hopes of clearing his name.
In doing so, he said, he hopes to shed light on some of the questions he has for his former employer.
“I don’t like to be accused of lying when I didn’t,” he said.
“And I’d like to see the problems at the police department corrected. That’s an absolute must.”

Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.