Local News

Ousted DOT Director Testifies In Toomer Investigation

Posted January 15, 1998 12:00 a.m. EST

— What was the Division of Motor Vehicles trying to hide when it paid a former employee $100,000 to leave his job? A North Carolina legislative panel sought answers to that question Thursday.

Garland Garrett, who was the state's Department of Transportation Commissioner until former Commerce Secretary Norris Tolson took over Wednesday, testified before the committee Thursday afternoon.

Committee members have found many discrepancies between testimony they've heard and the results of an SBI investigation into the Algie Toomer settlement. The panel hoped Garland Garrett's testimony could fill in some of those gaps, but in the same week in which the Governor used words like "new" and "different" to describe the Department of Transportation, the old scandal lingers still.

One day after being replaced as Secretary of Transportation, Garland Garrett was on the hot seat in front of state legislators.

Although cloudy on the specifics of many meetings, Garrett said he did specifically remember being opposed to the $100,000 settlement paid to one-time DMV employee, Algie Toomer.

Bill Pittman, Governor Jim Hunt's attorney, who drafted the Toomer settlement, told committee members who knew about the Toomer troubles at the DMV, and what there was to know.

Committee members read from an SBI report about the Toomer settlement. The big revelation came from interviews with employees who said former deputy transportation secretary Fred Aikens ordered all documents relating to the Toomer investigation destroyed. It was yet another allegation of wrongdoing against the DOT.

Committee members plan to call back a number of people, including Aikens, but things aren't going as smoothly as they'd like.

Last week, Toomer refused to honor a subpoena to testify, and was held in contempt. Thursday, two more people refused to testify.

The committee is taking the issue to a superior court judge.

Photographer:Joe Frieda