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Ousted DOT Director Testifies In Toomer Investigation

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RALEIGH — What was the Division of Motor Vehicles tryingto hide when it paid a former employee $100,000 to leave his job? A NorthCarolina 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 overWednesday, testified before the committee Thursday afternoon.

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

One day after being replaced as Secretary of Transportation, GarlandGarrett 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 toone-time DMV employee, Algie Toomer.

Bill Pittman, Governor Jim Hunt's attorney, who drafted the Toomersettlement, told committee members who knew about the Toomer troublesat 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 formerdeputy transportation secretary Fred Aikens ordered all documents relatingto the Toomer investigation destroyed. It was yet another allegation ofwrongdoing against the DOT.

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

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

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

Photographer:Joe Frieda