Raleigh, N.C. — The North Carolina Personnel Commission decided Aug. 20 to uphold a judge’s ruling on a state trooper fired for showing an obscene image to a bank teller.
Ronald Gene Ezzell Jr., a helicopter pilot who worked for the Highway Patrol for 19 years, 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.
After word of the incident reached Ezzell’s supervisors, they recommended that he be suspended and demoted.
Col. Walter Wilson, who recently retired as Highway Patrol commander, decided instead to fire Ezzell, saying he had reprimanded Ezzell earlier after the trooper made inappropriate comments to a teenage waitress when the two men were at lunch.
Administrative Law Judge Fred Morrison Jr. said the state's decision to fire Ezzell "should be left undisturbed."
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.
"Not every transgression should rise to the level of a dismissal," Webb said.
Ezzell has 30 days from the ruling to appeal the commission’s decision to the superior court either in Wake County or in Lenoir County where the incident happened.
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.