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Budget cuts dismantle state fugitive team

A special team of state law enforcement agents that chased violent fugitives has been disbanded in budget-cutting at the state Alcohol Law Enforcement agency.

The Fugitive Apprehension Strike Team was one of the special units that former ALE Director John Ledford created to expand the agency’s reach.

Ledford resigned as director in advance of the Republican takeover in January and made himself an agent, which led to his firing on the ground that it exceeded his authority. Ledford is contesting his firing. He has not yet been replaced.

Cutting the FAST unit is part of the $1.75 million hit ALE took in the state budget this year, which amounted to 20 percent of the money it receives from the state.

Two dozen law enforcement positions will be eliminated or shifted to other funding sources for the next fiscal year, after which the jobs will be abolished unless other funding is found, according to new report to legislators.

Agents who were assigned to FAST have returned to traditional assignments, according to the report by DPS Law Enforcement Commissioner Gregory Baker. The special unit was credited with catching more than 60 violent offenders during its first few months last year.

The budget cuts also will leave some management positions vacant, including that of assistant director. In all, the agency will have about 7 percent fewer sworn law enforcement officers to focus on alcohol, drugs and lottery violations.

Child-welfare advocates concerned about adult/youth justice divisions merging

There is concern by some child-welfare advocates over the decision to merge the adult and juvenile prison sections of the state Department of Public Safety.

The merger was announced Tuesday as part of the consolidation of related state agencies that has been underway since 2011, in addition to more recent directives to find additional savings.

Rob Thompson, executive director of the Covenant with North Carolina’s Children, said Wednesday the merger raises questions about how well the state can focus on teenagers.

“Preventing juvenile crime and rehabilitating youthful offenders demand a different model than adult corrections,” Thompson said in a statement. “We are concerned that the new structure will lead to a decreased emphasis on youth-focused programming.”

Perry named new Secretary of Department of Public Safety

Frank L. Perry will be the new Secretary of the Department of Public Safety.

Perry has been serving as interim secretary since Kieran Shanahan stepped down abruptly last month.

In making the announcement, Gov. Pat McCrory said: "Frank Perry has dedicated his life to public safety, primarily through his distinguished FBI career,” said Governor McCrory. "He brings a wealth of real-world experience to the helm of DPS in addition to his dedication to public service.”

Public Safety's Masso submitted resignation letter to governor's office instead of DPS

Dome notes that when Department of Public Safety Chief Operating Officer Edward “Sonny” Masso abruptly resigned on the same day as his boss – DPS Secretary Kieran Shanahan – he addressed his resignation letter to the governor’s office rather than to anyone in the public safety hierarchy.

Maybe that's because he was the No. 2 guy in DPS, and reporting to the No. 1 guy was no longer an option. Or did the governor's office play a bigger role? Dome is waiting for an explanation.

Masso’s letter, which the state finally released to The N&O on Wednesday (it was requested more than a week earlier), was addressed to Thomas Stith, the governor’s chief of staff. It simply says he was resigning effective the end of the month, and that day – July 25 – would be his last at work.

Both Masso’s and Shanahan’s departures on July 25 were unexpected, and have given rise to all sorts of speculation. Shanahan’s resignation letter was written to Gov. Pat McCrory, and outlined mostly financial reasons for leaving public office.

Shanahan's departure stirs speculation

Public Safety Secretary Kieran Shanahan’s abrupt resignation last week has the rumor mill spinning. Shanahan, who was appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory seven months ago, wrote a letter to the governor saying he couldn’t juggle the job with his outside business interests, which include real estate holdings and also a law firm and a lobbying firm. His last day is Wednesday, July 31.

Shanahan had been disentangling himself from those enterprises, but decided it was unworkable. But his resignation giving less than a week’s notice — and it being unclear if he will be at work any day this week — has left some people skeptical.

Budget cut would force SHP to drop accreditation

The State Highway Patrol would no longer be nationally accredited, under budget cuts the General Assembly is considering.

The five-person office that oversees the accreditation process would be eliminated in order to save about $400,000.

Losing the national recognition won’t affect the patrol’s daily operations, a spokeswoman says. But, privately, some troopers are reportedly upset the state will be dropping the designation.

“There will be no impact,” says Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Crystal Feldman.

Former ALE director contests firing: calls it political

Former state Alcohol Law Enforcement Director John Ledford is contest his firing, contending it was politically motivated and unlawful, even though it was done amid the typical replacement of agency officials whenever there is a change in administrations.

Ledford, a longtime Democratic-connected figure, stepped down from his position as director in advance of the new Republican administration earlier this year. He reassigned himself to the position of an agent stationed in Asheville, where he is from.

New Department of Public Safety Commissioner of Law Enforcement Frank Perry dismissed him, saying Ledford had no authority to take that position, nor to give himself a salary far in excess of what the job pays – nearly $66,000. The department contends Ledford was not a career state employee, and so cannot challenge his dismissal.

Ledford, in a filing with the state Office of Administrative Hearings, contends he was a career employee because he had the job for the preceding two years, and had no disciplinary problems.

New budget director at Public Safety

Darlene Langston has been named the new budget director for the Department of Public Safety.

Langston is a CPA who has worked as an accountant at public safety since last year, and before that worked as budget analyst at the Department of Correction. Correction is one of the agencies that has been folded into the enlarged Department of Public Safety.

She will be responsible for the development and preparation of the department's budgets, ongoing budget management and a variety of special reports and analyses.

Ex-ALE's Ledford to run for Madison sheriff again

Fired former state Alcohol Law Enforcement Director John Ledford will run for sheriff of Madison County, the job he held for three terms before joining ALE.

Ledford confirmed his plans to the Asheville Citizen-Times.

“This last week I’ve had a number of persons in the county reach out to me,” Ledford told the newspaper. “We are announcing our intentsions to run for sheriff of Madison County for 2014.”

On Monday, the state Department of Public Safety released its reasons for terminating Ledford on April 10. It was because in December Ledford – in anticipation of losing his job when the new Republican administration took over in January – demoted himself to agent and took a vacant position in Asheville that he had transferred from Wilmington, and gave himself a salary of $65,887. The position was budgeted at $39,198.

Last year, Ledford told The News & Observer that he intended to finish his career in law enforcement after he left ALE. A state audit earlier in the year criticized him for driving his state car home to Asheville on weekends; but Ledford’s calendars indicated he was attending state meetings on those occasions.

DPS says ex-ALE director Ledford's move was inappropriate

The state Department of Public Safety on Monday disclosed it had "ethical and legal concerns" that prompted it to fire former Alcohol Law Enforcement Director John Ledford after he demoted himself to agent.

Ledford had no legal authority to transfer a vacant position in Wilmington to Asheville, where he is from, and then essentially assign himself to that spot at an "advanced competency" salary level far in excess of what the position pays, according to a letter to Ledford by DPS Commissioner Frank Perry.

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