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Judge rules ex-ALE director fired for political reasons

Posted January 2, 2014

ALE logo, Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement

— An agent with the state Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement was fired last year because he is a Democrat working under a Republican administration, a state judge ruled this week.

Senior Administrative Law Judge Fred Morrison Jr. ordered Tuesday that John Ledford be reinstated to his position at ALE, receive back pay and be awarded about $50,000 in legal fees. The state Department of Public Safety has 30 days to appeal the ruling to Superior Court.

Ledford, who was appointed ALE director in 2009 by Democratic former Gov. Beverly Perdue, sought to return to the field in 2012 and was assigned as an agent – with a much lower salary – to the agency's Asheville office.

Shortly after Republican Gov. Pat McCrory took office a year ago, Ledford was fired, with then-DPS Commissioner of Law Enforcement Frank Perry informing him in a memo that "the events leading to the demotion could not be viewed as anything other than unacceptable personal conduct."

Ledford was the subject of a 2012 state audit that criticized his use of a state-owned vehicle to commute from Raleigh to his Asheville home on weekends while he was director of ALE. State Auditor Beth Wood also said Ledford tried to stonewall and intimidate her investigators conducting the audit.

Morrison determined, however, that Perry didn't follow ALE rules for disciplining employees. The judge also noted in his decision that former DPS Secretary Kieran Shanahan was openly critical of Ledford's move to a non-exempt position – meaning he couldn't be fired at will as a political appointee – and later sent a late-night email to McCrory's chief of staff notifying him of Ledford's termination.

"(Ledford) was a marked man politically following the 2012 election for governor," Morrison said in his seven-page ruling.

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  • ALECarolina Jan 9, 2014

    Pat McCrory and the NCGOP have created more jobs for lawyers since they took office than all the liberal democrats for the past 100 years!

    Let's show our support for these job creators in 2014 and 2016, and remember....the more extreme and conservative, the better! Every lawyer in the United States will bust a move to NC to get a chunk of our litigation-friendly, legal job creating welcome mat!

  • skeeter II Jan 8, 2014

    This man did what democrats and republicans have been doing each time the Governor of his party does not win the election -- step down to an non-exempt job! Everyone needs to check history before make their comments.

  • BlueSky63 Jan 7, 2014

    Yes, he stepped down and took a much lower salary...which was significantly higher than the salaries of other, more experienced and more senior agents, if memory serves. THAT would have been a good point to include in this story.

  • Just another bad guy Jan 6, 2014

    I drive from Raleigh to Asheville often. Why isn't the State giving me a car & gas too?

  • Tax Man Jan 6, 2014

    Hey the guy was a political appointee so once the governor changed he was fair game for removal. What's the big deal? He's out and there is no reason to bring him back in. He cheated and stole from NC so not only should he be fired but he should repay for the fair use of the state vehicles he misused. A crook is a crook and he is a crook - and a slimy one at that!

  • tatermommy52 Jan 3, 2014

    These admin judges are leftover political hacks and this will be overturned.

  • Rebelyell55 Jan 3, 2014

    Yes he should of been fired. His conduct during the state audit proves that. But it should be done is way that meets personnel procedures. As for the new director, he should be fired also, since he seems to be in over his head. I'm not sure it would be cheaper to pay him off compared to cost of an appeal. Plus what it already has cost the state in legal fees.

  • 42_wral_mods_suck_i'm_gone Jan 3, 2014

    "receive back pay and be awarded about $50,000 in legal fees."

    Another bone headed move by McCrory. Thanks Pat for wasting tax payer money on your little GOP vendettas. This case is one of MANY.

  • dare107 Jan 2, 2014

    Let me just take a wild guess which party this Judge Morrison Jr. Is from! Ignore the fact that he misused State Property & Funds!

  • ncpilot2 Jan 2, 2014

    Another example of what's wrong with our justice system at all levels. The judge ignored FACTS about the audit of this state employee misusing state funds for personal use. The result? He's paid MORE state funds to misuse.

    Incredible.

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