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Audit: ALE officials stonewalled state inquiry into car use

Posted June 19, 2012

— Officials in the state Department of Public Safety repeatedly blocked attempts by state auditors to investigate a complaint that two high-ranking Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement officers were misusing their state-owned vehicles, according to an audit released Tuesday.

DPS Secretary Reuben Young wrote in a sharply worded response to the audit that his staffers were acting cautiously since auditors were seeking access to personnel records of the two ALE officials.

"Requests by legal counsel and department management that your investigator refer them to the specific statutory provisions upon which he relied in asserting his authority were met with resistance, indignation and, at times, outright refusal," Young wrote. "Given the severity of the sanctions for erroneously releasing confidential personnel information, the department acted judiciously in confirming your authority to access such information prior to releasing it."

The auditors were responding to a tip that ALE Director John Ledford and Deputy Director for Operations Allen Page were using their state-owned vehicles to commute to their homes near Asheville on the weekends.

State law allows the men to use their official vehicles for commuting but also requires them to live in or near Raleigh since they are based at headquarters. The men share an apartment in Raleigh, according to the audit, so they shouldn't be using a state-owned car to commute elsewhere.

According to the audit, attempts to speak with ALE officers in Asheville were met with so much resistance that the State Auditor's Office had to ask the Attorney General's Office to prepare subpoenas to compel cooperation before ALE officials finally relented and spoke with investigators.

"Everywhere we turned to carry out and do our jobs, we were stonewalled. We were stopped. There were obstacles put in the way," State Auditor Beth Wood said Tuesday.

ALE logo, Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement Public Safety secretary defends ALE officials targeted in audit

Ledford and Page then filed formal complaints against the lead investigator, seeking details on his employment history and travel expenses and accusing him of incompetence, the audit states.

"The complaint and records request appeared to be submitted as an attempt to threaten or distract (audit) investigators from carrying out their duties," the audit states.

"We've never had the table reversed on one of my investigators before," Wood said. "I had to smile that they think something so elementary would work on this office."

Both men then failed to show up for a scheduled interview with auditors. When they finally did meet, they denied any misuse of state vehicles, although the documents they provided didn't substantiate their claims, according to the audit.

They often used state credit cards to purchase gas in the western part of the state without having any business purpose for being there, according to the audit. ALE agents told investigators that Page would often stop by offices in Greensboro, Hickory and Asheville on Thursday or Friday afternoons to drop off paperwork and visit but noted that he had no specific reason for being there.

"Unequivocally, if I was in my state car, I was on state business, without a doubt," Page told investigators. "There are times I have been on state business or I drove my car home anticipating that I might need blue lights and siren to respond to something, and I haven't documented it."

Young said that Ledford and Page aren't required to disprove the allegations against them and noted that auditors didn't find much to substantiate their case.

"You recommendation that we consider taking appropriate disciplinary action against the director and deputy director is manifestly inappropriate," he wrote in his response to the audit.

Wood said she stands by the audit and DPS should, at a minimum, seek reimbursement from Ledford and Page for gas and wear and tear on the vehicles for trips they can't document as business-related.

"To step back and say, 'I just don't see it that there was abuse here,' I'm disappointed. As a taxpayer, I'm disappointed," she said.

Gov. Beverly Perdue is reviewing the audit and Young's response, a spokesman said.

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  • Cautious Jun 20, 7:19 p.m.

    While I haven't read the audit word-for-word, I'm intrested to know how ALE explained the need for 2nd in charge of DPS (M. Gross) to commute to work DAILY in an unmarked ALE vehicle. The explanation would be especially interesting in light of the fact that Secretary Young commutes to work in his personal vehicle as done Deputy Secretary Rudisill.

  • wral mods blow close my account Jun 20, 4:37 p.m.

    Document as business-related or pay up. I'm tired of the free loaders of tax dollars.

  • Seriously15. Jun 20, 11:48 a.m.

    Wow, had this been members of the Highway Patrol Mr Young and Bev would have thrown them under the bus in a heartbeat...but they protect ALE agents??? HMMMMMM...makes no sense... And I am so sure that these ALE guys driving all of these sporty new UNMARKED SUVs REALLY used their blue lights and sirens

  • JustOneGodLesThanU Jun 20, 11:21 a.m.

    The stories are completely different here. The audit shows them in Asheville using a state gas card to fill up their state vehicle when they were not on business.

    "Unequivocally, if I was in my state car, I was on state business, without a doubt,' Page told investigators."
    There is no ambiguity in that statement and it should be provable one way or the other.

    So if it can be proven this is a false statement, I don't want Mr Page working at a law enforcement agency on my dime. If it's a true statement, leave him alone.

  • joeBob Jun 20, 8:46 a.m.

    I thought the state was going to do away with ALE since we really don't need another paramilitary organization to enforce laws in this state.

  • 1234qwer Jun 19, 7:55 p.m.

    Those of you claiming the auditor did not prove the case against these men - if you read the actual audit which is LINKED TO in the opening paragraph of this article, you would clearly see that the auditor cross-referenced records from their state-issued gas purchase card with their personal calendars to show that on days that they were marked off work they made gas purchases on the state's gas card into their state-owned vehicle while that vehicle was located in ASHEVILLE. The auditor then asked them to justify what work-related reason their was for this repeated occurrence and the ALE provided them with none. The auditor proved her case and the ALE did not even offer any materials to refute her findings. The lack of evidence in the ALE's defense does not render them innocent but only further damages their case. You would not understand that part of this story from just reading the WRAL article, which does not make that clear. You should read the actual audit before commenting people!

  • pm2 Jun 19, 7:34 p.m.

    Why should WE pay for their commute? No one pays for mine....

  • storchheim Jun 19, 7:13 p.m.

    I used to love my adopted home State.

    I'm not surprised, or even really angry that these guys used the cars for personal reasons. I too have seen official cars in mall parking lots, etc., and agree they should be in the parking garages at night, not entrusted to someone who can and will misuse them. No, what bothers me is the lies and coverup on the part of the superior.

    I used to love my adopted home State.

  • Disabled Vet Jun 19, 7:07 p.m.

    Why don't they investigate SHP Troop X. It is the administrative branch of the SHP. They all have patrol cars and all they do is drive them from home in the morning to work and then back home in the afternoon. Now tell me if that is not a waste of tax dollars for maintenance and upkeep on all those high power patrol cars?

  • NCHighlander Jun 19, 6:52 p.m.

    atticusisme, who said that? Give it up or it did not happen. I cannot understand why anyone would take up for these two. They tried the same intimidation tactics on the auditor that they use in ALE to keep everyone in line, toeing their line that is.

    atticusisme's apathy is the main reason we have crooks running the state. Most voters don't care enough or want to overlook everything and we're going broke over it.

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