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.
In the move in December, prior to the arrival of a new Republican administration that would have replaced him as head of the ALE, Ledford sought a salary of $65,887 -- making him the highest-paid agent in the state. The position was budgeted at $39,198.
Perry said Ledford, as director, recommended approval of his own request for reassignment, which was then "confirmed" by Chief Operating Officer Mikael Gross rather than the deputy director. Ultimately, then Secretary of DPS Reuben Young approved Ledford's request.
Perry wrote that it was an "inappropriate deviation from normal pratice" and was "nothing more than an attempt to circumvent the provisions of the State Personnel Act." Perry said Ledford's actions constituted unacceptable personal conduct, and on April 10 terminated him immediately.
Because Ledford is was not a career state employee he cannot appeal the department's decision.
Gross was release from employment in January, and was replaced by Perry. Young was replaced by Kieran Shanahan.