Local News

Highway Patrol says investigator violated no policies

Posted November 14, 2008 3:10 p.m. EST
Updated November 14, 2008 3:25 p.m. EST

— The North Carolina Highway Patrol says a former internal affairs investigator did not violate the state agency's policy while probing a racial slur left on a trooper's voicemail.

The decision comes following administrative law Judge Joe Webster's ruling last week that trooper Mitch Foard should be reinstated as a first sergeant because Capt. Ken Castelloe's 2006 investigation of the message was inadequate and unreasonable.

According to Webster's decision, Castelloe said during the investigation he had the voicemail message authenticated but later testified that was not true.

Webster said the investigation was not objective, because Castelloe never asked to hear the original voicemail and never interviewed Lt. Virgil Lessane, who made the accusation.

Bryan Beatty, secretary of the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, said in a statement Friday that he and Highway Patrol Commander Col. Walter Wilson reviewed Webster's decision as well as evidence from the hearing and met with attorneys who represented the state in the hearing.

"After reviewing the recommended decision and discussing the judge’s findings with the attorneys, we are completely satisfied that Capt. Castelloe did not violate Highway Patrol policy or otherwise engage in any wrongful conduct," he said.

Webster also questioned the message's validity and found Lessane's credibility to be in question, saying he had knowingly violated Highway Patrol rules and deceived his superiors.

That should have been a factor when officials were deciding whether to demote Foard, he said.

Foard has been with the Highway Patrol since 1985. Webster noted that he had never received any formal discipline and had above-standard ratings on performance evaluations prior to his demotion.

Webster's recommendation has been forwarded to the state personnel commission, which could rule on the matter as early as Dec. 11.

Castelloe, who headed the Internal Affairs Unit, was reassigned last year following a minor traffic wreck in which he was involved after concerns about how he handled the wreck.