WRAL Investigates

State agency investigating employee's poor driving record

Posted September 20, 2010

— A bad driving record didn't keep the state Department of Correction from hiring a repeat speeder to drive one of its vans. That employee continued the streak and was pulled over several times while driving the department’s vehicle.

The WRAL Investigates team looked at how the DOC screens its drivers and how tickets slip through the court system

Dennis Strickland, a technician with the DOC, has driven all over the state and received four tickets in his state van since 2009. He has received a total of at least 20 speeding tickets – 17 of which in the past 10 years. In one case, he was driving 102 mph in a 65 mph zone.

“When you have someone with a record that lengthy, it might signal a problem,” said Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Jeff Gordon.

Gordon said he can’t speak to this case, but the last two troopers to pull Strickland over did speak out by mentioning his record on the ticket. A prosecutor in Nash County also added a note to Strickland’s last ticket: “(He) has a terrible driving record.”

“We got a complaint about two weeks ago. The person called a supervisor, and we’ve been looking into it ever since,” said DOC spokesman Keith Acree.

Until then, the DOC did not know about the tickets in the state van. It's the employees' responsibility to report them. One day after WRAL's interview, Strickland resigned.

State agency investigates employee's driving record State agency investigates employee's driving record

So how was he allowed to drive for the state? Strickland was hired on contract in 2006 and permanently in 2008. He was hired even though his license was suspended for part of 2002 for getting too many tickets.

“It’s something we’ll look into as part of the investigation,” Acree said. “If it’s too much risk, the state’s not going to let him drive.”

The DOC has no set rules on driving records. The person hiring has discretion.

Strickland did receive some breaks along the way. Of the 20 tickets WRAL found, only 12 show up on his driving record for the past 10 years. Most of the tickets he received over the years were in Nash County.

One ticket in 2001 was reduced to an improper muffler charge. Another in 2005, for going 84 in a 55 mph zone, was reduced to an expired registration tag. The same story is repeated for his tickets across the state.

Gordon says lengthy records aren't common, but he's also not surprised.

“It can be very eye-opening. There are going to be people with a bad habit of breaking the law, and if that’s the case, we’ll continue to do what we’re supposed to do and that’s enforce the law,” he said.

DOC officials said they aren’t sure if there will be changes.

“I would like to think that someone who is a consistent repeat offender is not someone we want driving a state van,” Acree said.

Strickland didn't want to talk publicly about his record or his resignation. Prosecutors in Nash County reduced his last ticket from 79 to 64 in a 55 mph zone. He has one more still pending.

Generally, drivers have to appear before a judge if they are caught going more than 15 mph above the speed limit. However, the district attorney's office can arbitrarily reduce the speed or change the charge so many cases never see a judge. That's what happened in most of the tickets WRAL reviewed.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • gunny462 Sep 21, 2010

    mph, I am behind the wheel every day for my job and all of the SOVs I see are zipping down the road like they own the vehicle.

    To relate how bad driving is getting, last month a 'student driver' vehicle passed me at the I40-147 split doing appx 80mph. How do I know this? I drive 4-5 miles above the limit and he smoked me. Made me wonder who this knucklehead is teaching to drive?!

  • mpheels Sep 21, 2010

    I had to take a state car last week to attend 3 day meeting about 3 hours down I-40. It's was one of the worst driving experiences of my life. I didn't want to go even a little over the speed limit lest someone report me, so instead I had to deal with aggressive meanies (can't use the word I want...) trying to run me off the road b/c heaven forbid someone drive the speed limit (for the record, I was in the right lane the whole time except for a few spots where other routes split off and I need to be in the center for a mile or so). One guy actually moved from the through lane to the acceleration lane to pass me on the right rather than use either of the two open lanes to my left. I'm done with driving a state car and having a target on my tail. I'll take the reduced mileage reimbursement rather than go through that again.

  • btneast Sep 21, 2010

    This is just an indication of the overall problem with State Government upper echelons...the system is getting so corrupt..

    It's not getting corrupt, it's been this way since forever.....the media is just more adept at ferreting it out. The good ole boy network is how most all state governments have worked for a long, long time. If you think this is some new isolated phenomena, then you are naive.

  • Transporter Sep 21, 2010

    Is it just me or does anyone else find it amusing the trooper interviewed about speeding was named Jeff Gordon?

  • hihuwatlu Sep 21, 2010

    I want his lawyer. A speeding ticket reduced to expired registration tag! How'd he do that?

  • Stonewall Brigade Sep 21, 2010

    OK WRAL News, now go find some other infraction at an RTP company to report, and expand your sophomoric effort at journalism beyond state government. Be bold and expand your efforts beyond government and see if the private sector also has similar instances.

  • didisaythat Sep 21, 2010

    Ye who has not sped be the first to comment on this blog.

  • peppercorns Sep 21, 2010

    what's even better?? WRAL rarly posts my pro state employee - pro union responses.

  • ratherbnnc Sep 21, 2010

    Placing a governor on state vehicles that are not specific to law enforcement would not only reduce speeding in state vehicles, it would save fuel.

    There are stickers in every state owned vehicle that read " If you speed in a state vehicle and you get caught you can lose your job. Save your job and save our fuel" He knew better!!

  • ratherbnnc Sep 21, 2010

    All government operations should be privately run. That would solve many problems. If a company does a poor job, they are fired and replaced with one that can do a better job.

    Yeah! Riighhtt! Uh huh! Suuuure!!!