Britt letter led to town retraction
On Jan. 9, 2011, Britt penned a letter on police department stationery to Director Wayne Woodard of the North Carolina Department of Justice’s Criminal Justice Standards Division.
The division oversees the Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission, which regulates standards for training and certification of law enforcement officers. The commission also hears cases of officers accused of violating those standards.
At the time of the letter, Britt’s predecessor, former Chief Ray Davis, was chair of the training and standards probable cause hearing committee, which was investigating an officer in the Kill Devil Hills Police Department.
Britt’s two-page letter to the director states his belief that Davis was “seeking revenge” and using the entire panel to “further (Davis’) agenda.”
Britt explains that he did not know Davis or the “entire story,” yet he tosses around phrases such as “corruption allegations” and “ethical misconduct” in reference to his predecessor.
Britt asks Woodard to investigate what he believes is a case of Davis “using his position on the probable cause hearing committee to harm this officer’s reputation and in turn the department’s standing in the community.”
Finally, Britt also notes that he contemplated sending his letter to the state Attorney General’s office but decided not to because, “it is my understanding that the law enforcement liaison from the A.G.’s office . . . is close friends with Davis so I am not sure how much standing I would have there.”
On March 28, 2011 Woodard responded in a sternly worded letter.
The director outlines the “clearly established” policies guiding the probable cause committee. He notes the committee took action on the KDH police officer as the result of a staff member reviewing a newspaper article, which mentioned the officer and an investigation by District Attorney Frank Parrish.
The case in turn was investigated by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, which referred its findings to the Criminal Justice Standards Division. In the end, the officer apparently was cleared.
Woodard, referring to Britt’s charge that Davis was using his position “to further his agenda,” informs Britt that the former chief “was not involved in bringing either of those cases (involving the KDHPD) to the committee’s attention.“
He goes on to tell Britt, “Once these matters were before the Committee, Chairman Davis properly recused himself from participating in any discussion of either case. In fact, he physically left the room while both cases were being reviewed by the committee.”
Finally, Woodard reminds Britt that the commission would not “allow any undue or improper influence by Commission members to affect the handling of any cases under consideration. To do so would be a clear violation of the Ethics Law and standards on behalf of all people involved.”
On April 1, 2011 Town Manager Debbie Diaz sent a letter to Woodard asking him to “please accept this letter as a complete and total retraction of any and all statements made in the Jan. 9, 2011 letter to you from Kill Devil Hills Police Chief Gary Britt regarding and pertaining to former Town Police Chief Ray Davis.”
Of more interest is Diaz’s next statement: “Chief Britt’s letter was written without the knowledge or endorsement of Town Management, the Town Attorney, or the Board of Commissioners. The insinuations contained in Chief Britt’s letter are regrettable . . .”
Britt also wrote a letter of apology to Davis.
If all of this sounds familiar, it should.
Britt, the town or their legal counsel have alleged conspiracies, cronyism and abuse of power stretching from the membership of the probable cause commission to the Attorney General’s office, to two Superior Court judges, a former town attorney and two members of the state bar.
The latest round of allegations followed the unexplained suspension of Britt in September of last year. A month after he returned in December, the town grudgingly issued a statement saying he had been suspended during an internal investigation in conjunction with the the North Carolina League of Municipalities, the town’s insurance underwriter.
What had prompted it was word that District Attorney Frank Parrish was ready to issue a petition to remove Britt, based largely on complaints about his personnel practices from two former and two current police officers. The internal investigation cleared Britt and the DA’s petition was never filed.
The officers, in the meantime, took their grievances to local Superior Court Judge Jerry Tillet, as state law allows.
Since then, published reports have shifted the focus to unproven allegations that Tillett and others were conspiring to seek revenge against Britt because of a confrontation between two police officers and the judge’s son two years ago.
There comes a point when it’s time to say enough is enough.
When we add other patterns of behavior, the entire situation in Kill Devil Hills begs further investigation.
The town and its attorneys have engaged in a pattern of keeping documents out of the public eye. The so-called “independent review” that “cleared” Britt is buried in the chief’s personnel file.
Copies of personnel files that are in the possession of the Superior Court are the subjects of legal actions to have them returned to the town, where the contents will never see the light of day.
While the town eagerly turned over billing records of their own town attorney when requested by the media, the billing records of the town’s counsel have been denied to the media since those attorneys are working for the League of Municipalities and therefore not subject to public records requests, according to league attorney Dan Hartzog.
And finally, with a police chief accused of falsifying documents by at least one of several officers seeking legal remedies, questions about how the chief, a Currituck County resident, enrolled his child in Dare County schools at taxpayer expense also emerged — adding more questions to the seemingly endless stream of revelations.
We note in that case the chief has chosen not to reveal the documentation used to enroll his child in Dare County schools, even though it is within his power to do so.
We think the time is long overdue for a truly independent board, perhaps even the aforementioned Training and Standards commission, to look into the affairs surrounding the officers’ charges and other information reported by the media in order to bring about closure.
Further, we call on the current town board to question the town manager about the exchange of letters and subsequent apologies issued by the town as a result of Britt’s poor judgment in making the accusations he enumerated.
Surely, a red flag regarding the chief should have been raised when the town administration learned of Britt’s actions, and if remedies had been taken then, the town might not have found itself in the legal situation in which it is now engaged.
To paraphrase Hillary Clinton and Samuel Coleridge, it’s time to cease “suspending disbelief” and get to the bottom of this whole affair.
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