LELAND, NC (WWAY'S 'THE RANT') -- And I don't mean that in the "cool, funny, you're out of control, dude!" sense. I mean it in the classic "there is no one at the helm of this ship" way. That was blatantly apparent at last night's special closed session meeting.
It ended with another settlement with another Leland cop who apparently wasn't enjoying working under Chief Tim Jayne. Kevin Foss filed a complaint with the state labor board just a few weeks back. We're told it was soon after he was forced to take a lie detector test, either in regards to his testimony to an SBI investigator or to figure out if he is KBlue2221984, a regular "insider" commenter here on our website. When asked if Foss was forced to take a lie detector test, incoming Town Manager David Hollis says the town never "forces" anyone to do anything. But when we asked if Foss was "asked" to take the test, Hollis said he couldn't comment because it was a personnel issue.
While Foss didn't get a settlement other than getting paid out for his remaining vacation time, this is the second settlement the town has had to deal with in the last three months. Former Leland Officer Sherry Lewis got $25,000 in September to settle an EEOC claim she made after being shot in the crotch 12 times with simulation ammunition during a training exercise.
When we asked Hollis if having to settle with two officers in 90 days bothered him, he said it did. He said he's also concerned that seven officers out of department of a little more than 30 have resigned this year.
Several allegations of misconduct have been levied against Chief Jayne and his department. We've been told he assaulted another officer by hitting him in the gut during a bachelor party last year. Officers allege he's made them work on his house and other homes in his neighborhood while on the clock. He's also allowed an officer who shot his service revolver into the air on New Year's Day to keep his job. An officer who's pulled his gun on fellow officers is also still employed. Plus, Officer Michael Landen, the officer that Lewis says shot her those 12 times, has never been disciplined. When we asked Hollis if he could deny ANY of those allegations, he looked away, looked back, grinned and said, "That's a good question." You're right Mr. Hollis, and it's a question a lot of people in Leland expect you to step up and answer, soon.
And if Mayor-Elect Brenda Bozeman runs her realty office like she's helping run the town she was elected to work for and lead, I'm not sure I'd even buy a "For Sale" sign from her, much less let her try to sell my house. We asked her at last night's meeting if she trusted Chief Jayne. After a long pause, she said so far she didn't have a reason not to. But then I asked if she trusted a police chief who slugged another cop at a party. She was quick to say that she'd asked about that, but kept getting different answers. So we went with the natural follow-up, "Have you talked to the officer who he punched?" Here's where it gets good. She said policy kept her from talking to him. What policy? "Well," she said, "I think he's filed an EEOC complaint, so we can't talk to him. I think it's state law that we can't talk with people who have filed complaints." You THINK Brenda? You THINK one of your officers has filed a complaint against the Town of Leland with a federal office? You don't KNOW? Did you know we've confirmed others have, too? When you were asked point-blank if your police department was broken, you paused and said, "I don't know." Brenda, is it possible that this television station knows more about what's going on personnel-wise in your town than YOU, the MAYOR-ELECT?
Then you gotta love her shuck-and-jive yesterday when we talked with her before the meeting. Earlier in the week she had told a reporter at the StarNews that the meeting would be about police department personnel. But when we called her to confirm that, she told us the newspaper had gotten that wrong; that she never said that. She said they would be talking about personnel issues from many departments plus other issues. Then lo and behold, after a 40-minute private meeting, what do you know - the meeting was about a POLICE PERSONNEL ISSUE!
Brenda, are we really going to start a relationship like this a week before you even get sworn in? You apparently don't know what's going on in the world around you, and then you lie to the media about things you're on the record with?
So I think it's fair to say, that with an outgoing mayor who confessed he's literally out of the loop on many of the personnel issues in his town, an incoming mayor who appears to be just as much out of the loop and is already covering her tracks, an outgoing town manager who refuses to do anything about those personnel issues on his watch, an incoming town manager who's only been on the job a couple of weeks and has absolutely no experience in town administration, that Chief Tim Jayne is running Leland. That must be what the four stars on his shirt collar stand for: he's the General of Leland.
I realize that many are waiting to see what the SBI investigation turns up first, but I hope they're not so naive to think that if people will lie to them, they won't also lie to the SBI. And I hope that they're not so naive to think that in this atmosphere, with a police chief running the town, people are scared. And when people are scared, they do stupid things. I just hope someone steps up before someone gets hurt. Because if they do, it's on the hands of everyone in that super-secret meeting Wednesday night - incoming AND outgoing.