FIRST ON 3: Leland upholds officer firings


LELAND, NC (WWAY) — Leland Town Manager David Hollis says he is upholding the terminations of three police officers fired earlier this year.

The town fired Lt. Bill Kozak, Lt. Rick Dellapia and officer John Blasingame in April after an internal investigation conducted by the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office.

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“We are moving forward with a stronger dedication to serve and protect the citizens of Leland,” Hollis said in a statement. “We hope to put the events and uncertainty of the past behind us. It is our determination to stay focused on maintaining a superior respectful and service oriented police force. We will be diligent in this regard.”

The investigation and the officers’ dismissals came after months of controversy regarding the Leland Police Department and uncovered by a WWAY NewsChannel 3 investigation.

The town said in a statement that the three formers officers were notified in writing by
certified mail that the town will adhere to the North Carolina General Statutes in releasing any
further details regarding the terminations.

According to the letters the town released, the officers was fired for each committing the following violations:

-Dellapia: Violation of rules of conduct, insubordination, unbecoming conduct, courtesy, supervision and truthfulness.
-Kozak: Violation of rules of conduct, unbecoming conduct, courtesy and supervision.
-Blasingame: Violation of rules of conduct, insubordination, unsatisfactory performance, unbecoming conduct.

The town did not provide specifics, citing personnel laws.

“This is what the law requires us to give out so this is what we’re giving out,” Hollis says.

The fired officers’ attorney, Thomas Hicks, says he found out about Hollis’s decision a week ago. Hicks says Dellapia and Kozak are accused of being responsible for injuries to former Leland police officer Sherry Lewis, shot with simunition during a training exercise. Blasingame, he says, was fired for something he had already been disciplined for.

Hicks says his new focus is getting unemployment benefits for all three officers. As for Hollis, he hopes the town can now finally focus on the future.

“Hopefully we can have the community behind us as we continue to make it a better place for the citizens here,” he says.

Hicks says Blasingame is currently getting unemployment benefits. Dellapia and Kozak both have appeal hearings next week to get unemployment benefits.

Before their firings, the three officers were suspended along with Deputy Chief Karl Smith and Ofc. Michael Landen. Smith and Landen then chose to resign.

The town fired former Police Chief Tim Jayne February 1. Hollis also denied Jayne’s appeal. Mike James has been serving as interim chief since late February.