Local News

Management changing in Wake, Durham probation offices

Posted July 30, 2008 10:24 a.m. EDT
Updated July 30, 2008 8:24 p.m. EDT

— Several top managers in the probation offices in Wake and Durham counties have retired or have been reassigned in the wake of the slayings of two area college students.

Problems with the state's probation system came to light in March after Demario James Atwater, 21, and Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., 17, were charged with killing Eve Carson, the student body president of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Both men had been charged with other crimes while on probation but were never jailed for violating the conditions of probation.

Lovette also was charged with the January slaying of Duke University graduate student Abhijit Mahato.

A state Department of Correction investigation into how Atwater's and Lovette's probation cases were handled  by its Division of Community Corrections found a number of failures and oversights.

Records obtained by WRAL show state officials had cited the Wake County probation office three times in the past seven years for management problems, excessive vacancies and inadequate supervision of offenders. Durham County's probation office was cited once for the same issues.

Veteran management teams from the division were brought in to oversee the Wake and Durham probation offices in recent months during the internal investigation.

Both offices are now looking for new managers after top officials have left or moved to new assignments.

"This is an ongoing process. There will likely be more personnel actions as we continue through the process," Department of Correction spokesman Keith Acree said.

William Pardue, who headed the Wake County office, has taken a job with the state prison system. Assistant manager Lawrence Lindsey retired, and assistant manager Anthony Taylor has been reassigned to Durham County.

Geoffrey Hathaway, who headed the Durham County office, has been reassigned to Orange County, while assistant manager Theron Dennis has been reassigned to Johnston County.

Also, assistant division manager John McDuffie, who works in the office that oversaw probation operations in 22 counties, including Wake and Durham, will retire on Sept. 1.

Acree said poor job performance was one factor for the management changes.

"This is one part of a larger effort to resolve some systemic issues we're dealing with in the probation system," he said.

The two probation officers who handled the Lovette and Atwater cases both resigned earlier this year.

The Durham County office has also had its management structure changed. The office will now have two assistant managers, similar to how bigger cities like Raleigh and Charlotte operate.

State Rep. Dan Blue, D-Wake, said management changes may need to go higher, but he declined to say whether Robert Guy, the director of the Division of Community Corrections, should be on the hot seat.

"I don't know whether shifting around Wake County and Durham County really addresses the issue that needs to be addressed. I'm not saying it doesn't, but if it does not, then it has to be more drastic," Blue said.

The General Assembly allocated about $2 million to help with probation system improvements, but state officials are awaiting the results of a National Institute of Corrections review of the system before the money is spent.

"We know we have to get to the bottom of this so that kind of mess-up does not occur again," Blue said.