Local News

DA's Report Questions Top Hunt Officials Role...

Posted December 30, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST

— A district attorney's report on a controversial $100,000 settlement with a former Division of Motor Vehicles employee criticizes a top official's handling of the case and questions whether he stopped an internal probe into his conduct.

The report by Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby - a summary of a State Bureau of Investigation inquiry - was issued Monday. It outlines events that led Bill Pittman, then Gov. Jim Hunt's legal counsel, to agree to the settlement.

The 84-page document is full of strange tales about politics and personalities within the DMV - missing government files, investigative notes scribbled on a coloring book and former DMV employee Algie Toomer's own service as a driver who ferried legislators on trips and picked up the boss's kids at school.

The SBI probe led to former DMV Commissioner Alexander Killens to plead guilty in September to interfering with a 1995 criminal investigation of Toomer.

The report also raises questions about actions by Fred Aikens, who was at that time was deputy transportation secretary with responsibilities over DMV.

The report said Aikens, who was a deputy transportation secretary with responsibility for DMV, instructed DOT auditors to stop an investigation into Toomer's use of state telephones.

One official told SBI agents that he ``recalled Aikens instructing him to do away with any documentation in his possession pertinent to the investigation of Toomer.''

Aikens, now a top official in the Department of Corrections, said Monday he never gave such instructions.

The report points to Aikens for failing to carry out an initial settlement reached with Toomer in January 1996 that called for Toomer to be transferred to Hillsborough and given a 10 percent raise that he said had been promised him

Aikens, who was acting DMV commissioner at the time, said Monday that it was not his responsibility to see that the settlement was carried out. He said it was never carried out because Toomer, who was on sick leave, never returned to work.

Pittman told the SBI that the $100,000 payment wouldn't have been necessary if Aikens and other top transportation officials had resolved the matter before it reached the governor's office.

``He says that everybody at DOT/DMV hoped Toomer would just go away and, therefore, did not implement the deal,'' the report says of Pittman, who has since been appointed by Hunt to a seat on the state Utilities Commission

Pittman also blamed faulty information given to him by the Police Benevolent Association, which was acting on Toomer's behalf.

``Information of Toomer being mistreated by DMV which was given to Bill Pittman by the (Police Benevolent Association) appears not to be accurate,'' the report said.

Pittman told SBI agents that by the time the matter reached him, he thought the Hillsborough deal was no longer acceptable to Toomer.

``He determined that he was going to put an end to the matter in the summer of 1996, and that he was determined to keep Toomer and the (Police Benevolent Association) from going to the Governor about Toomer,'' the report says.

The report shows a few instances in which individual DMV records, or whole files, were missing.

DMV employees told the SBI that Killens took a file on an internal investigation and that documents were missing when he returned it. A secretary said that Toomer once asked for his time sheets, and she had difficulty getting him to return them.

``She said she did eventually receive the time sheets, but it was her opinion that some of the time sheets had been altered,'' the report says.

Betsy Anne Hayes, who was Killens' administrative assistant, told SBI agents that she created a separate file for correspondence relating to Toomer. She said that she could not find the file after Killens resigned.

Much of the information released in the report was not new. Many of the same people who provided information to SBI investigators have testified before a state House committee also looking into the settlement.

Willoughby said he believed it was important to release the report because of the overriding public interest in the case. The SBI investigation, begun after a request by Hunt, did not focus on the settlement itself but on possible obstruction of justice at the DMV.

Toomer has said he believes he is entitled to the settlement because he was caught in the middle of a power struggle between Killens and other top DMV officials who disliked the former commissioner.

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