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ALE chief's longtime partner also bailing out

Dome reported yesterday that John Ledford, director of the state Alcohol Law Enforcement, has voluntarily demoted himself to field agent and will return to his home district in Asheville effective Tuesday. Turns out his longtime associate at ALE, deputy director Richard Alan Page, has also asked for and received a demotion and reassignment to Asheville as the agent in charge of that district. Both men are bailing out as the McCrory administration puts its own people in charge of various state departments. Ledford’s salary will drop from $110,667 to $65,887. Page’s will go from $96,581 to $85,000.

ALE director returns to agent job

Hoping to avoid the chopping block where most department heads find themselves with the arrival of a new administration, John Ledford, director of the state Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement, has voluntarily returned to the ranks of field agent.

Appeals court upholds firing of ALE agent

The N.C. Court of Appeals upheld the firing of an alcohol enforcement agent who admitted she wasn't working all the hours for which she was paid.

Karen Haas was a 16-year agent with the state division of Alcohol Law Enforcement when in 2005 she was transferred from New Bern to Fayetteville. Haas was allowed to continue living in Havelock, 65 miles from her new assignment despite a rule requiring agents to live within 40 miles of their district, according to the appeals court opinion.

In late 2006, Haas supervisor received a tip that she was not working all of her scheduled hours. He confirmed the tip after following her for three days, according to the opinion.

In an interview with superiors, Haas admitted she occasionally did not work all of the hours she claimed on weekly reports. Agency officials fired Haas.

She appealed and the State Personnel Commission found upheld the firing even though it found ALE didn't give Haas enough time to respond to the charges against her. A Superior Court Judge overturned the firing after reviewing the case.

The appeals court found that the judge, Superior Court Judge Carl Fox, did not have the authority to conduct his own review of the facts of the case. The court ordered Fox to revisit the case and uphold the firing.

Lottery studying ALE relationship

The state Lottery Commission wants to know whether it's getting its money's worth from the state Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement.

Currently, ALE provides background checks, investigates complaints and ensures stores don't sell lottery tickets to minors. ALE also checks for illegal activity at lottery retail locations. For those services, the lottery gives ALE $800,000 a year.

The state lottery commission has hired a consultant to study whether the lottery is getting a good deal or whether it would be cheaper to hire in-house employees to do the same service.

"Let's just say it's always good to review contracts," said Tom Shaheen, executive director of the lottery. 

Trooper says firing was harsh

* A former state trooper wants his job back after being fired for having a drunken sexual encounter with another trooper's wife in the back seat of a car headed home from a Christmas party.

The woman's husband was in the front seat.

Timothy J. White of Salisbury was dismissed from the N.C. Highway Patrol on June 2 after he continued to contact the other trooper's wife, despite being told by his superiors to stay away from her, according to documents on file at the state Office of Administrative Hearings.

White, 39, was terminated for personal conduct unbecoming of an officer. He immediately filed an appeal on the grounds that he was being treated more harshly than other troopers accused of similar behavior.

Since 1998, state records show at least 27 cases of sexual misconduct by troopers either on or off duty. While some troopers were fired, several who had extramarital affairs or behaved inappropriately were given lesser punishments and later received promotions.

The incident that led to White's dismissal occurred after a Dec. 17 party at a bar in Mocksville, southwest of Winston-Salem. White, a patrol veteran who had been promoted to the rank of sergeant earlier that month, said he consumed about nine beers at the party. He then had a sexual encounter with the wife of Master Trooper Eric B. Perdue, according to the state report.

Perdue was White's subordinate and is listed as a witness to the incident. A third trooper was driving them home. (N&O)

* The director of the N.C. Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement announced his sudden retirement Monday, eight days after reports his agency bought all of its agents assault rifles and that two of the weapons were missing.

Bill Chandler's retirement was announced in an afternoon e-mail to the agency's employees from Reuben F. Young, the state secretary of the N.C. Department of Crime Control and Public Safety. Chandler, who was appointed to head ALE by former Gov. Mike Easley in November 2007, had worked at the agency 30 years as a field agent and supervisor.

Young said Chandler, 51, put in his retirement papers after the two had a private talk Monday morning. Though he would not discuss what specifically triggered the director's departure, the secretary said he was concerned by issues raised in a Sept. 13 article published in The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer.

Chandler will be replaced by John Ledford, a former ALE agent who is currently the sheriff of Madison County. Ledford, 44, will take over the agency in November, according to Young.

Lost and found: assault rifles

Every agent at the N.C. Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement has a state-issued assault rifle, and two of the expensive and powerful firearms are missing.

"I am extremely concerned about this," said Bill Chandler, the state's ALE director since 2007. "We don't know where the weapons are."

The thefts and an accidental shooting this summer have led to new policies at ALE. At the same time, the incidents have brought attention to the agency's growing arsenal.

With just 104 full-time agents, ALE's primary responsibility is to enforce state laws on the purchase and sale of alcoholic beverages. Though its officers are rarely involved in situations where the use of deadly force is required, ALE is the only state law-enforcement agency to provide every agent with an assault rifle.

"Wow, I didn't know they had those," said Sen. Ed Jones, a Democrat from Enfield who is a retired state trooper. "I'm sitting here trying to think of a good reason to justify why ALE would need that much firepower, but I'm having some trouble." (N&O)

Plates back on ALE cars

State Alcohol Law Enforcement Director Bill Chandler says the division's vehicles are now street legal, having received the registration stickers last week.

The registrations had expired on the roughly 130 vehicles on Feb. 15. They went for about a dozen days without the new registrations, Dan Kane reports.

Chandler had originally said a new law had led to more paperwork that made it difficult to get the registrations processed, but he said this week that he was in error.

The problem, he said, is division staff, including him, didn't move soon enough to get the registrations done.

"It was a comedy of errors," he said, "except that it wasn't funny."

Previously: Plates expire on ALE vehicles. 

New head of alcohol enforcement

The state Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement has a new director today.

Deputy Director Bill Chandler succeeds Director Mike Robertson, who retired Wednesday after five years in the job. Chandler has been the division's second-in-command for four years. The division regulates the sale of alcoholic beverages, tobacco products and lottery tickets, Dan Kane reports.

ALE officials said they planned to make the official announcement this afternoon, but confirmed an internal announcement of the change made by Bryan Beatty, secretary of the N.C. Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, that was obtained by The News & Observer.

In the memo, Beatty said of Chandler: "During his 27-year career with ALE, he has worked in virtually every facet of the statewide law enforcement agency including as a field agent, district supervisor, training coordinator and assistant director."

Beatty said that Chandler has a bachelor's degree in political science and master's and doctorate degrees in public administration, all from N.C. State University.

Robertson has spent 35 years in law enforcement, including stints at the State Highway Patrol and the State Bureau of Investigation where he was an assistant director.

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