Former State Capitol Police chief enjoys vindication
Posted May 22, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — Fifteen months after the state Department of Public Safety fired Tony Asion as chief of the State Capitol Police, a judge has said that officials had no grounds to take such action.
In his first public statements since Administrative Law Judge Donald Overby issued his ruling, Asion said Thursday that he feels vindicated and now has a chance to move on with his life.
"It's been difficult, to say the least," Asion said of the past year, noting that his firing was a black mark that followed him on every job application and eventual rejection.
DPS officials said last year that Asion and Sgt. Benjamin Franklin were fired for various violations of policy involved with off-duty security jobs worked by State Capitol Police officers.
Asion never received approval for the secondary work program, officials said, and he allowed officers to work at Club B.E.D. on Capital Boulevard in north Raleigh, which the Raleigh Police Department and Wake County Sheriff's Office deem too dangerous for their officers and deputies.
"Officers were no more in danger there than they are every day as police officers," Asion said, adding that, while there was "a criminal element" associated with the club, his officers primarily patrolled the parking lot to ensure there were no problems outside.
"No one is putting a gun to any of these officers to take this job," he said.
Officials also accused Asion of charging club owners an extra fee for the use of state patrol cars but then used that money for things such as flowers, shirts and a holiday party instead of paying for gas or vehicle maintenance. Franklin was accused of taking money from the account as an "administrative fee."
Asion said he tried to use the secondary work program to raise morale among the State Capitol Police force, which he said is the lowest paid state law enforcement agency that has withstood personnel cuts and outdated equipment.
Previously, he said, there was no transparency to ensure that officers weren't working too many hours on off-duty security jobs and that they were being paid properly. He set up a nonprofit to route all payments through and tacked on fees for patrol cars and for Franklin, who coordinated assignments and payments on his own time.
"I thought I was doing something better for the state and the department," Asion said. "Bottom line was I got fired for doing what I was asked to do – to use my experience to improve the department."
He said extra money in the account was used to buy flowers for an officer who had cancer, sweatshirts for new officers and a Christmas party, which he said was important to boost morale.
"I never made a dime off" the secondary employment program, he said.
Asion said he believes DPS overreacted, but he said he understands that they wanted to avoid the perception of wrongdoing. Still, he was upset he never was given a chance to explain the workings of the secondary employment program and defend himself.
So, he fought quietly through the Office of Administrative Hearings to regain his jobs.
"My name and my reputation is extremely important, so I needed to clear that. I needed that more than anything else," he said.
Asion, who now works in private security, said he would like to return to the State Capitol Police and finish what he started.
DPS has appealed Overby's ruling.