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Trooper fired for obscene joke appeals dismissal

Posted July 13, 2009

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— A fired state Highway Patrol trooper said Monday that he didn't deserve to be fired for an obscene joke that he admits was in bad taste.

Administrative Law Judge Fred Morrison Jr. is expected to decide in the next 75 days whether Ron Ezzell, a helicopter pilot who worked for the Highway Patrol for 19 years, should get his job back.

Former Highway Patrol trooper Ron Ezzell Ex-trooper says bad joke doesn't warrant firing

Ezzell was in a marked cruiser in the drive-through lane at a State Employees Credit Union branch in Kinston last October when he passed an image to a teller. The doctored photo showed a boy with enlarged genitals.

"I was kind of disgusted that someone would send that in," teller Brittany Dunn testified during a Monday morning hearing.

Although Dunn and another teller decided not to file a complaint with the Highway Patrol, word about the incident spread to Ezzell's supervisors. After an internal investigation, they recommended that he be suspended and demoted.

Highway Patrol Commander Col. Walter Wilson decided instead to fire Ezzell.

"His act that particular day was deplorable," Wilson testified. "It was unacceptable behavior that could not be tolerated. I felt the appropriate action would be dismissal from the state Highway Patrol."

Wilson said an earlier incident played into his decision. He said Ezzell had made inappropriate comments to a teenage waitress once when the two men were at lunch. He reprimanded Ezzell after that incident.

Reuben Young, secretary of the state Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, said he supported Wilson's decision to fire Ezzell.

Ezzell and his attorney, Woody Webb, maintained that suspension and demotion was the appropriate punishment in the case, which they said was simply a bad joke that went too far.

"My decision that day was poor judgment," Ezzell testified. "It was only meant as a joke. I didn't mean any forethought or malice to offend anybody. Had I known I'd offended anybody, I would have apologized."

"Not every transgression should rise to the level of a dismissal," Webb said.

The case is the latest in a series of trooper's appealing firings or demotions. Several troopers have been dismissed in the past couple of years amid allegations of profiling women for traffic stops, having sex on duty, drunken driving or animal abuse.


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  • sandygayle77 Jul 14, 2009

    I love how people keep trying to reframe issue after issue. "Oh heck just let the man do his job, it's no worse than Clinton." ??? What? Unethical is unethical.

    The officer has been warned before and it's obvious that a picture of a boys enlarged genitals is nothing to pass around while in uniform in a public place.

    He interacted inappropriately with the public while in uniform. He's not just an employee, he's an ambassador of the government.

    I agree that the joke was dumb and it's not offensive to me but to many women I'm certain that they don't enjoy seeing such adolescent behavior.

    I don't think criminal charges are necessary but if he can't conduct himself with some common decency while in public then he doesn't need to represent the government of that public... especially law enforcement.

  • webberx101 Jul 14, 2009

    Yet another law enforcement deviant - scary...

  • thepeopleschamp Jul 13, 2009

    "Truly, they are not the SBI..." affirmativediversity

    Many SBI agents came from the NCSHP. I guess you did not know that. I think there should be some punishment for his actions but I don't bad mouth the entire agency for what one person did. Perhaps you would please share what profession you are in?

  • affirmativediversity Jul 13, 2009


    Its nice to finally find common ground...Thanks!

  • CrewMax Jul 13, 2009

    "The doctored photo showed a boy with enlarged genitals."

    If that had been anybody else, their computers would have been confiscated and they would be investigated as a pediphile.

  • airbornemonty Jul 13, 2009

    For those of you that feel the trooper was just joking, how would you feel if he did it to your mother your wife or daughter? Oh never mind, I already know the answer.

  • mrduright Jul 13, 2009


    For the first time ever I completely agree with you.

  • moth Jul 13, 2009

    A 19 year veteran fired for bad taste in a practical joke?
    How PC can you get?
    I hope he gets his job back.

  • ccacrabbitdog Jul 13, 2009

    sounds like alot of people have gotten tickets and r mad....haven't heard a vaild argument yet......and do any of u have a clue on how much money u have invested in him...hello key word being pilot...it was n bad taste only....not a firing offence....

  • Fed-up29 Jul 13, 2009

    He deserves to be fired. he did soemthing to a similar nature with the teenager and was reprimanded but still didnt learn his lesson so 2 strikes buddy your out and someone unemployed with better morals...approach the mound please!