09/24/2007

N.C. gov.: Trooper who had sex in cruiser won't get job back

By Dan Kane
The News & Observer

RALEIGH, N.C. Gov. Mike Easley is not going to let a state trooper fired for having sex in his patrol car and at a patrol office return to the state Highway Patrol, regardless of what the courts say, a spokesman said late Sunday night.

"The governor is adamant that we're not going to give the badge of law enforcement officer to somebody with issues of moral turpitude," said a statement e-mailed by Easley spokesman Seth Effron. "Now that the judge has ruled, she can give that officer a job. But he won't be working for the state Highway Patrol as long as Governor Easley is in office."

Last week, a state administrative law judge ruled that a trooper fired in 2003 should have his job back, with back pay, despite having an extramarital affair that involved having sex in his patrol car and at a patrol office.

Judge Melissa Owens Lassiter said that former Trooper Monty Stevens Poarch had committed misconduct egregious enough to be fired under patrol policy. But the judge said Poarch should stay on the force after his attorney presented several other cases in which troopers had sex while on duty, including one trooper involved with the same woman as Poarch.

Another trooper who had sex while on duty also made more than 20 threatening calls to his ex-wife and was not fired.

The cases cited took place during the tenure of Commander Richard W. Holden, who led the patrol from 1999 until 2004. Patrol spokesman Lt. Everett Clendenin said the current commander, Fletcher Clay, has not allowed any member found to have committed similar behavior to remain on the force.

Clay said in a statement late Sunday that since he became patrol commander in July 2004, "I have made it crystal clear these types of behaviors are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Troopers know that if they engage in this type of behavior their jobs will be in jeopardy."

He added that Poarch's admitted behavior is "absolutely outrageous and will not be tolerated. I simply do not understand how Judge Lassiter could recognize the egregiousness of this conduct and, yet, recommend that the Highway Patrol reinstate this former trooper."

Highway Patrol officials said Friday they would appeal the decision, a move that Easley supports. The State Personnel Commission would hear the appeal, and then further appeals would go to the courts.

"I remain hopeful that the State Personnel Commission ... will issue a decision that is more consistent with the Highway Patrol's ongoing effort to maintain a high standard of integrity and public trust and one that is more consistent with the expectations of the citizens we serve," Clay said.

Clendenin said Friday that the patrol would not pursue the other troopers who had committed similar behavior but were allowed to remain on the force under Holden. Clendenin said their disciplinary cases could not be reopened.

Poarch is now a lieutenant with the sheriff's department in Caldwell County. He has told his attorney that he wants to return to the Highway Patrol to finish out his law enforcement career. 
 
Easley said judge 'can give that officer a job.'

Copyright 2007 The News & Observer

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