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ONLY ON 3: Leland Town Council doesn't have to hide behind "personnel issues"

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LELAND, NC (WWAY) -- The Leland Town Council has been very quiet regarding ongoing reports of problems within the Leland Police Department. Some say they can't discuss them because they're "personnel issues."

Mayor Walter Futch admitted last week he is "out of touch" on many issues because he lets Town Manager Bill Farris deal with disciplinary problems and he only deals with policy issues.

Currently, the council has had to deal with former Leland Police Officer Sherry Lewis, who was shot 12 times between the legs with simulation ammunition by fellow officers during a training exercise. Just minutes after agreeing to pay Lewis $25,000 to settle an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission harassment complaint she filed, Farris denied on camera knowing about the shooting.

There is also the issue of Chief Tim Jayne taking city cars to a condo at Myrtle Beach to celebrate at a bachelor party and where he ended up punching Officer John Hollman during the party, according to two independent sources we've talked with.

No one will say if the officers involved in Lewis's shooting have been disciplined. No one will say if Jayne's use of city property for personal business has been investigated. No one will tell us if Jayne was discipled for striking another officer.

Mayor Pro Tem Brenda Bozeman is running unopposed for mayor in November. She refuses to comment on any of these allegations because she says they are "personnel matters."

Councilman Herbert Barnes, who is also running again in November, chose not to call us back Tuesday. Neither did Councilwoman Pat Battleman.

State law though says they don't have be afraid about talking about personnel issues in public, if the problems at hand are damaging the credibility of the department.

North Carolina General Statute § 162A-6.1 (7) states that Farris, with the approval of council, can talk with anyone, including the media, about someone's personnel file if it means maintaining public confidence in the Leland Police Department.

Pender County Sheriff Carson Smith used the law in 2009 when he shared the personnel file of Sergeant Michael Lewis. He was demoted after he helped rescue malnourished horses contrary to orders given by the sheriff. Some in the animal rescue community were angry that Lewis would be punished for trying to help. Sheriff Smith said he wanted to show that Lewis was being insubordinate.

Many we've talked with in the Leland Community say they are losing confidence in both their police department and council because no one is addressing the problems reported over the past week and a half.

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