Local News

DMV Commissioner Steps Down

Posted July 18, 2007

— The commissioner of the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles resigned Wednesday amid questions over the approval of a vehicle title for a friend in Cumberland County.

A former Cumberland County register of deeds, George Tatum had headed the DMV since 2003. Mark Foster, chief financial officer of the state Department of Transportation, DMV's parent agency, was named interim commissioner while state officials search for a permanent replacement, NCDOT spokesman Ernie Seneca said.

The resignation came one day after a longtime DMV inspector filed a whistle-blower suit against DMV, Tatum and other division officials. Joey Gardner alleged he has been harassed in recent weeks since he questioned the approval of a vehicle title for a friend of Tatum's.

Robert Kinlaw, a Fayetteville supermarket owner, received a state antique car title for a replica 1937 Ford truck. The title saves the owner hundreds of dollars in taxes and makes the car more valuable.

Kinlaw had been denied an antique title after his truck was inspected in Nash County, but he later received a title after taking the truck to a Fayetteville inspector.

DMV's internal affairs office briefly suspended Gardner after he questioned the title in an e-mail to his superiors, and Gardner alleged in his suit that his state-issued gun had been confiscated and that he had been ordered to undergo repeated mental evaluations.

A DOT deputy secretary reversed Gardner's suspension within a few hours.

Tatum and Kinlaw have denied any wrongdoing. Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippett has asked the State Bureau of Investigation to examine the case.

Seneca declined to comment on whether Tatum's resignation was linked to the controversy. Tippett also declined to comment on Tatum's departure.

But Gov. Mike Easley, who appointed Tatum to the DMV post, said his resignation was the right move.

"I believe it was appropriate," Easley said.

Gardner didn't demand Tatum's resignation in his suit, but attorney Michael Byrne said he's pleased DMV appears to be willing to settle the dispute.

"We feel their personnel are their concern, except to the extent that may impact Mr. Gardner and that he's allowed to do his job in a fair, open and honest way," Byrne said.

"This is exactly the kind of thing we certainly watch out for on behalf of employees to make sure government does remain open and that employees don't feel like there's a chilling effect on their right to speak up on behalf of themselves or for taxpayers," said Ardis Watkins, director of legislative affairs for the State Employees Association of North Carolina.

In a Wednesday court hearing in the whistle-blower lawsuit, DMV officials agreed to give Gardner back his weapon and not to require any more mental exams.


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  • bsh448 Jul 20, 2007

    Tatum didn't complete this alone, he had help. Let's look at Tippett and Devane and their helping Tatum cover up the meeting a year ago held by Tatum, Robinson & Edwards where 20 some staffers were cussed & threatened with "friendly-fire". It was covered up after DOT HR found that Robinson had committed these acts in the presence of Tatum.

  • GWALLY Jul 20, 2007

    ....."But Gov. Mike Easley, who appointed Tatum to the DMV post"

    Goes all the way to the top.......appointed by the Gov. Mike (easy-it's just another tax payer) Easley......!!! You just got to love this Gov. and all his cookie jar cronies in NC !!!!

  • undercover299 Jul 20, 2007

    I find it very interesting that Joey Gardner is sporting this halo for being a whistle blower uncovering wrong doings within DMV. Has anyone thought about the Inspector in Nash County (Williamson) which was the first honest person to turn down passing the title on this ford truck? It has been stated that Joey was the ranking officer that requested the Nash Co inspector to pass approval on this title because it was the commissioners friend's truck. Where is the Nash Co Inspector now? Why is he not being the whistleblower on the whistleblower. Word has it that he had to retire early because of his refusal to title this truck

  • j49 Jul 19, 2007

    to answer "all this over a truck title" This was just the straw that broke Tatums back. He abused his office since day one. This goes deeper than just Tatum. His spineless robots that work just under him carried out his orders with no regard for the hurt and pain they were inflicting on good hard working people. They should be held accountable also.The investigation needs to continue.Thanks Dan Kane of the N&O good job so far..
    I'll bet the robots are hiding in the bunker ready to take their cyanide capsules..coo coo cachoo heres to you mr robinson

  • undercover299 Jul 19, 2007

    Cont from other comment-----His wife works for drivers license and might have recieved a large promotion.........Maybe some more investigation will reveal this

  • undercover299 Jul 19, 2007

    while you guys are sitting back saying poor Tatum and Kinlaw they just made bad judgement...u need to stop and think this wasnt a case of bad judgement this was a case of politicians using there power to get what they want for them and there friends.This in turn hurt the actual good people causing jobs to be lost when Tatum and Kinlaw should be the ones losing things.So dont say poor Tatum and kinlaw u should hope they throw the book at them and teach other highly political people not to use there power to make them more wealthy and get what they want while making the good people that barely get by on what they make struggle to do right and still end up without a job.Lets hope Kinlaw needs someone to stock his groceries at his supermarket and let Tatum work for very litle money and lets stick it to him like hes stuck it to everyone else!I m starting to wonder if all politicians are crooks.

  • Shagger Jul 19, 2007

    It was never stated that what they did was right or that they shouldn't be punished. The scripture quoted was not giving an excuse for them either. They should have to face the consequences for their actions. I didn't work for Tatum so I don't know what kind of boss he is. But I do know that his family are fine people and even people who make mistakes, can still be nice.

  • skeeter Jul 19, 2007

    j49........amen to that, Don't get me started, because I can tell you some stories about his band of thugs that intimindate the rank and file employees. They need to clean house starting with the administrative level (front office).

  • j49 Jul 19, 2007

    Tatums bullying of employees started the day he arrived at DMV and several of his close underlings in the license and theft bureau jumped right on board with him in strong arming employees and producing fear among the rank in file. Hiring, firing, demoting, promoting, and transfering of employees for the time that tatum has been there needs to be investigated closely. It is a sad fact, but joey gardner is just one of many victims of this commissioner and his thugs.

  • just my2cents Jul 19, 2007

    The Deputy Secretary for the DOT is a great guy with morals, I am glad he was there to make the right call for Joey. Joey is by the book, you are not going to find a more honest person.