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Deputy Labor Commissioner's Resignation Sends Message To State Workers

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A high-ranking member of the state's

Department of Labor

is out of a job, accused of abusing the privileges of his position.

Deputy Labor Commissioner John Johnson resigned for violating rules that apply to all state workers. He is accused of misusing his state cell phone and state vehicle.

With a $94,000-a-year state salary, Johnson also faces scrutiny for racking up questionable amounts of comp time.

His case sends a message to state workers about taxpayer trust.

Johnson's sudden resignation came over the weekend.

"On a professional level, I was very disappointed," Johnson said of allegations against him, "and on a personal level, I was very hurt."

Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry said Johnson's exit made sense after she learned he violated various state personnel rules.

From his home in Charlotte, Johnson told WRAL on Tuesday that the resignation was his decision.

"Once somebody questions your integrity or credibility, it is time to go," he said.

As head of occupational safety, Johnson oversaw business inspections and helped direct the investigation into the deadly West Pharmaceuticals plant explosion in Kinston.

He admitted making hundreds of personal calls on his state cell phone -- a violation of state codes that prohibit personal calls except in case of emergency.

Johnson said he worked hard, totaling 900 hours in comp time. That far exceeds state guidelines, which limit such time to around 200 hours a year.

His boss, Berry, signed every time sheet.

"The timesheets I signed, the way they're filled out, it's difficult to see an accumulation," Berry said.

There are also questions about Johnson's use of his state vehicle.

Berry said she sees the whole situation as a lesson for all state workers. She said her department will clarify all personnel policies so everyone knows the rules.

"There's a public trust factor that's there," she said. "We just need to be very careful with how we conduct ourselves."

Berry said this was never a question of Johnson's job performance, just the fact that he violated personnel rules.

The Department of Labor will update its monitoring of hours and state equipment. The SBI and state auditor also have been called in to investigate.