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Fired Officer Sues UNC, Administrators

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HILLSBOROUGH — A UNC-CH police officer,fired from his job last month for time-card irregularities, fired backTuesday against the university with a civil lawsuit seeking monetarydamages and his job back.

Ed Swain, a former lieutenant and 10-year universitypolice veteran, claims that he was fired in retaliation for speaking outwhen he thought his supervisors were trying to fix anunderage-drinking ticket he had given to the daughter of a UNC-CH trustee.

University officials have been mum about the firing, but they havemaintained that Swain was fired for not noting on his time card that hevisitedThe Chapel Hill Newspaperoffice while on duty.

Swain filed his lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court in ChapelHill. The suit seeks an unspecified amount of damages in excess of$10,000.

Swain told WRAL-TV5'sMarkRobertsthat, while he'd like to have his job back, the suit is moreabout freedom of speech.

Swain has been at the center of the controversy since Sept. 27,when he wrote an underage drinking citation to Caroline Hancock,18, the daughter of trustee Billy Armfield.

Michael Hooker, chancellor of the University of North Carolinaat Chapel Hill, has chosen to remain silent on the issue.

"Due process requires that I remain unprejudiced," Hooker said in aninterview with WRAL, noting that he consistently has declined to commenton personnel issues. Hooker said he would like to comment on the case andhopes to be able to speak about it later when legal issues have beenresolved.

But somestudents say Hooker's silence seems inconsistent with his campaignagainst underage drinking.

Last week, the school's student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel,and the Black Student Movement called for a public response byHooker.

``It just seems like it's so blatant what's going on,'' saidJason Ofsanko, a senior from Salisbury. ``You could see it comingthat they were going to try to find something to get this guy on.

``The `Don't Get Wasted' campaign has come out and millions ofdollars are being spent to reduce alcohol consumption at footballgames. Lt. Swain was just doing his job, and he got fired for it.''

Swain also has filed an administrative complaint with theUniversity, challenging his dismissal.

Asked whether he now regrets issuing the ticket, Swainsaid, "Even if I came back, I still would write a citation."

The chief of police, Don Gold, cleared out his desk a monthafter the citation was issued and took an indefinite leave ofabsence. Associate Vice Chancellor for Auxiliary Services CarolynElfland was asked to explain the abrupt departure. Her response atthe time: ``I'm not going to share that with you.''

UNC Executive Vice Chancellor Elson Floyd has denied thatGold'sdeparture had anything to do with the Hancock ticket.

Still, there is little doubt that administrators were heavilyinvolved in the citation issued to Hancock.

On the day the ticket was issued, an athletics departmentofficial contacted Maj. Jeff McCracken, the man who eventuallyfired Swain. That weekend, Associate Vice Chancellor Elfland, whooversees the police department, and her boss, Vice ChancellorFloyd, were also notified.

Elfland decided to have McCracken investigate. McCracken pulledcopies of the ticket from media reports and computers, but laterreinstated them when it became the talk of the department.

In the weeks that followed, the story hit the newspapers andtelevision news. Throughout the ordeal, school administrators haveinsisted that their actions, including Swain's firing, werejustified.

Danny Caldwell, a police captain who also filed a grievanceoverthe handling of the ticket, says the episode has caused morale inthe department to plummet to a new low.

``This is the worst I've seen it in 17 years,'' he said.

Elfland disagreed, saying officers remain as dedicated as ever.``If you asked any officer if it's affected the level of serviceprovided to the campus, I think they would say no. People are outthere doing their jobs and patrolling.''

From staff and wire reports

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