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BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY)– Bald Head Island insiders say something is going on with the village’s management.

Several former employees have come forward after nine public safety officers got in trouble for personnel issues, but management refuses to talk. The former employees are saying village manager Calvin Peck and human resources director Karen Ellison mistreat workers and do not follow policies.

Jack Baker who worked as a firefighter for six years says they mistreated him and the recently dismissed officers.

“Karen Ellison and Calvin Peck are bullies,” Baker said.

Baker says they mistreat residents also.

“Absolutely, because residents will come in there voicing their opinions,” Baker said. “They absolutely have no voice.”

When we asked why he thinks they do it, Baker said it’s because they can.

“What they constantly hold onto is that North Carolina is an at-will employee state,” he said. “They basically threaten people and make them feel unsafe in their job and that they will terminate you for any reason.”

Not everyone agrees. Harper Peterson was once mayor of Wilmington. Now he is busy running businesses on Bald Head Island.

“They’ve got a very well run government on the island and public services, they do a good job.”

Peterson said the dismissed officers were good employees as well.

We called Peck, Ellison, every council member and the mayor. They all refused to talk. When we reached mayor Andy Sayre this afternoon, he referred us to Karen Ellison saying, “I have another job, and I’m busy with that.” Then he hung up on us.

Comment on this Story

  • Concernedbrunscocitizen

    Thank you for listening. I can only hope that when you present things posted here, they do not fall on deaf ears. How deep does the corruption go? We already know the mayor (not capitalized on purpose) is a spineless individual that has misused his “authority”. One can only hope that the rest of the council can stand up, and do the right thing! As I have stated, its your island..but you deserve better. The tyrannical dictatorship that currently runs your island is certainly not how I would want to live; but hey, there are those among us. So, will your council be sheep..and allow the empire to continue their reign? Or, will they stand up for what is right, what is ethical, what is moral and eject this farce. Your sheepdogs have been put to sleep by the dirty workings of an unjust few. While a few sheepdogs remain, if it were me I would question their loyalty. The empire has removed anyone that opposes them thus far; the remainder are either loyal to them, or a short straw away from being the next bit of breaking news. I can think of a few good historical quotes that would work well here, but will refrain. The people of BHI need to take back what is theirs. Just as Mr. Baker stated, NC is an at will state. Calvin, Karen, and Caroline are subject to the same labor laws. They may have a contract, that will be the price you citizens pay to rid yourselves of the tyranny. Or stay the course and hope that all the tax-payer funded training pays off when its your medical emergency and the “dictator” shows up to treat you. Just don’t let BCEMS find out she is working outside of her scope of practice.
    Sometimes the easy wrong looks much better than the hard right. Maybe all those terminated did deserve it, maybe all the info on all these posts is misguided. Maybe your leadership is good. But, all the signs are pointing to the opposite. Don’t take the politician’s word for it, (sic:Peterson). You deserve better! Use the system and effect a change!
    You will need support in your cause. Now that this article has made it to page three, few will see these latest comments. Please use your social media to spread the word. It will be the only way for the people of BHI to take back what is theirs. There is strength in numbers, and you are only up against one when it comes down to it. There is case law that provides for the removal of loyal minions once you dismiss the maestro. Look it up, it is easy to find. I bid you God Speed on your endeavor. Hopefully WWAY will continue to follow your fight!

  • guesty

    Do you know why she was kicked out of BLET? I assume she was attending Brunswick Community College.

  • concernedbrunscocitizen

    Well, there is another truth that may never be known. Rumor has it that the individual was told not to come back, “quit”, or be kicked out. Apparently BCC affords “Dictators” (sic: Directors) opportunities that a normal student wouldn’t get. There were allegedly attitude issues, I am better than you issues, I know how to do this better issues, and a general lack of respect for the instructors. Whatever it was, it was bad enough that The tax payers had to send the individual to Cape Fear for BLET. There are a lot of interesting posts on the various stories about this. They should all be compiled into one. I hope some reporter is taking notes! Turtletime2 made some excellent points in a post on this page:


    INVESTIGATE!! Someone should dig into the career prior to being hired by BHI..that just might be Pandora’s box…

  • mridgeway

    I am printing out your comments so that I can give them to my husband who is a Council member. He has heard all of this from me, but I am so glad other voices are now speaking out. Thank you.

  • mridgeway

    Easy to check. I think she finally got it in New Hanover, but I am not sure where. Graduation lists should be public info. We usually have an announcement when an officer has completed additional training. We did not for Caroline or I missed it.

  • mridgeway

    What are the right questions? I have observed a pattern here. If you look at the hire dates of the terminated officers and officers who have resigned ( one more today) , they were all or mostly all hired by Chief Munna. Not only did Calvin want to decapitate the Chief of the department, now he is replacing the Army so he can have everyone at his Peck and Call.
    Let us know what other questions to ask as I am not afraid to ask them.

  • JeffS

    Oh, I could tell some stories. I know even after a flush of administration, my time there is done. In that department, 5 years is a long time.

  • JeffS

    A conversation took place in front of me between Caroline Mitchell PhD and Karen Ellison PhD prior to Caroline going to BLET. They felt because she was a PhD they should just give her a law enforcement certification because of her education, I guess it’s below her. I’m sure she took that attitude with her to class.

  • concernedbrunscocitizen

    So you would like to know the right questions to ask:

    – Why was Caroline Mitchell hired with no experience or training over candidates with extensive backgrounds in all aspects of public safety, some managing multi-million dollar budgets, with ALL the required certifications,(MD State Police Aviation Medicine Program Director) that would have prevented the burden on the tax-payers in the form of paying for her BLET (x2), multiple trips to TX which have yet yielded no Paramedic certification (easily verified through NCOEMS, a trip to CO for a CPR instructor certification that could have been obtained locally.
    – Oh, before we toss out the MD State Police candidate wanted too much money in salary, it was still less than the previous Chief. The fact is that Calvin and Karen knew he would not get in line with their agenda. We can even play devil’s advocate for a moment, maybe it was too much money for managing a three faceted public safety department, ($95,000 / year). So how do you explain the passing over of employees that were currently there or had worked there and left on good terms? You can’t explain this, it is substandard leadership from the village hall!
    – And while we are asking questions, lets ask how much of this training Mitchell has been compensated to attend? I seem to recall some trumped up charges a bit over a year ago in which another PSO was fired for what the empire said was illegal. Yet those actions were protected by federal law. But as Mr. Baker stated, NC is an at will state, Calvin and Karen know this, knew they were wrong, so they don’t put specifics in a termination letter. Just that we no longer need you, bullet proof in the eyes of a labor attorney. Like playing chess..only thing is, the game hasn’t been played out!
    – Ask about department SOPs that do not exist, ask about safety concerns of employees, that have been brought up and disregarded, but lets spend a wad of tax payer money to make our PSOs look like a militia, cause that’s how we did it out west. Oh but wait..
    – Ask about Mitchell’s real world experience, as LEO, Fire, and EMS. Academia is a wonderful place, but some people should stay there. The operations aspect of the world doesn’t always go like it does in the books.
    – Lets ask what BCEMS found in their investigation, how about NCJA Training and Standards? We already know NC OSFM is burdening the taxpayers cause someone can’t run a fire department.
    – Ask about circumventing or attempting to do so, just about every existing governing body around, and in the process demonstrating to other leaders a complete lack of leadership skills, ethics, and accountability.
    – Misuse of power, authority (even though that authority has no basis in law due to lack of certifications), strong arming officers into dropping charges, providing rides to intoxicated village officials after stopping them for what would have been a DWI for any commoner.(See posts on this thread)
    – And since this is a no holds barred title match, question certain inappropriate relationships that have allegedly occurred.
    At the end of the day, it is your island. They are guests there. It is ironic that Ellison was hired a month or so prior to Chief Munna being ousted. That marked the beginning of the end for a once great organization that was BHI Public Safety. Anyone that was or is perceived as a threat for whatever reason, was or is marked for removal by whatever means necessary.

  • mridgeway

    I copied your questions and they too will be presented to Council. I will be your voice.

  • jack baker

    If he thinks they do such a great job how can you explain more than 30 people leaving or being fired from a 21 member department in 5 years? I’m not even sure that number is accurate. I started there in 2006 by 2012 every single member of the fire department who was employed when I started was gone including the chief, and the vast majority of the police officers as well. Some had been there for several years. Odd amount of turnover for such a great administration to have? And that’s just one agency. Several left to take jobs for far less money but more security.

  • john

    Thank you Jack for speaking up for those of us that can’t. You nailed it.

  • Concerned

    Jack, I too have inside knowledge of the mess over there. Sooner or later someone will ask the right questions and see what is going on over there. Calvin and Karen will be exposed; and the laughing stock of a public safety director will have to go back west. When one is neither certified nor qualified to hold a position, lacks real world experience, commits protocol violations, and serves as a “YES” person to the administration, what would you expect? It will come out that the director was kicked out of BLET the first go around and the department was under investigation by several other entities. The spineless village council and mayor deserve everything they are getting. How quickly we forget the village manager that was hired after being run off from a nearby community. I bet the residents will have to do something when the short staffed department starts burning down homes because mutual aid can’t get to them in time. The residents will make changes when their ISO rating drops. Maybe it will be when the EMT-B director is out on a call acting as a paramedic that they will wake up. Maybe once the square grouper trade overruns the island for lack of police presence, they will see. Or maybe none of this will happen and everything will remain status quo. When you treat personnel like they do, you only attract a certain type of applicant to fill your vacancies. No sane person that could be employed elsewhere would even consider working there. Perhaps once the council wakes up, or is replaced, they could start fixing this huge mess by righting all of this empire’s wrongs. It would be interesting to see who would come back after a flush of the management toilet!

  • mridgeway

    Thanks for speaking out Jack. I hope Village Council members wake up and see what has happened to be a department that at one time I was proud to call our department as a volunteer. Calvin’s agenda has ruined the department and we have lost fine paramedics and firefighters. They knew Chip knew what their job was like, had knowledge and experience that they can learn from. Is it no wonder that the officers do not respect the new Public Safety Director. She is a nice person, but she was not qualified for the job when she was hired and has 20 months to get certified as a paramedic and all we have heard from the gitgo was that she was getting ready to sit for the exam. But she is only a symptom -hiring less qualified and certified people for the certified and qualified people we had- the disease is Calvin Peck and the only cure is his termination as Village Manager. We could go back to the old system, but that is just a process, the problem is in the management of the island. Please tell all the guys that like days before Calvin, we have your back.

  • Heimie Schmelter

    The only road a good businessman can take! The government there regulates his businesses, so he can’t chop them down, yet he still praises the jilted employees.

    What do you expect the man to do start a war over it?

  • mariyn

    I Love Harper Peterson and all he had done for this island, but his comment was spoken like a politician not the Harper I know.
    If a “well run government” tolerates bullying of its employees, then I disagree with Harper that we have a well run government. If he means a “well run government” is one that people ignore most of the time and do not hold public officials to account for their decisions and behavior, then we have a well run government.

  • JeffS

    There is no question the director is a fraud. Not only can she not go to BLET without getting kicked out, she doesn’t believe the rules apply and can conduct traffic stops along with Karen Ellison when she was not certified LEO, and detain them until an officer arrives. Then demanding the officer take enfoement action. Or how about treating patients without proper NC certifications, or “filling in” as a medic when short handed. A prime example of Calvin overpowering the towns people was a town hall meeting after Chip left. Two officers were made to guard him at his table. How about being ordered by a highly intoxicated mayor to use an ambulance to drive a highly intoxicated council man and his wife home because another officer stopped them all from driving.

  • law girl

    Caroline Mitchell attended BCC BLET the fall semester of 2013. She was condescending to everyone, students and instructors. Needless to say she only lasted one block of instruction, failed the first test, and withdrew from the program. A PhD is nice behind your name and the diploma looks nice on your wall, however, it won’t do anyone a damn bit of good in the field! BHI needs to terminate her and hire someone with real experience, someone who has actually served in the role of Law Enforcement Officer, Fire Fighter and Paramedic. I can read books too but that doesn’t make me qualified to run a Public Safety Department, and I passed BLET the first time!

  • Jack Baker

    For anyone who may question at least the specifics of my case I will be glad to share the grievance, crash report, 2008 policy for such events, as well as the email correspondences between Village Manager Peck, Interim Safety Director McCall, and Human Resources Director Karen Ellison, which will more than elaborate the problems. I have a 15 year spotless career in fire and EMS and hold several advanced certifications in fire, EMS, Hazmat, professional development and management, fire investigations, and technical rescue. On the day of my incident I was on my 3rd straight day of working and at the time of the incident had been on shift nearly 60 straight hours. I thoroughly loved working with the people I did at BHI and for the citizens we served. There is little respect given by those in question for the lives they ruin in these careless and negligent decisions….the island safety is immensely compromised by it….period. As for the former Wilmington mayor, how can you justify the system is operating well when just in public safety Alon 30 people have left a 21 member dept in 5 years. I worked with nearly all of them….I know the truth.

  • marilyn

    “No comment” comes to mind. The men were good officers.


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