WRAL Investigates

Two demoted probation officials get jobs back

Posted September 8, 2009 5:59 p.m. EDT
Updated September 9, 2009 7:00 a.m. EDT

— Two officials who were demoted last year during a shake-up in the state's probation system have been reinstated to supervisory positions, WRAL News has learned.

Cheryl Morris, a chief probation and parole officer in Durham County, and Cindy Faison, a chief probation and parole officer in Wake County, were stripped of their supervisory duties last summer.

Eleven managers in the Division of Community Corrections, including Morris and Faison, were transferred, demoted or retired last year during a state review of the agency's operations that was prompted by the slayings of two area college students.

Duke University graduate student Abhijit Mahato was shot and killed in his Durham apartment on Jan. 18, 2008, and Eve Carson, the student body president at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, was robbed, shot and dumped on a street near the Chapel Hill campus on March 5, 2008.

Police charged Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr. with murder in both cases, and they charged Demario James Atwater in Carson's slaying. Both were on probation at the time of the shootings, but probation officers didn't follow up on their cases.

Faison supervised the probation officers in charge of Atwater's file. She did flag problems several times, but his case went untouched for 13 months, according to a state audit.

The two women challenged their demotions, and the state Department of Correction quietly settled with them this spring rather than mediate their cases.

Both women will be reinstated with back pay. Cheryl Morris will have her annual salary restored to $46,748 and Cindy Faison will have her annual salary of $48,080 restored.

Despite assurances of government transparency by Gov. Beverly Perdue and Correction Secretary Alvin Keller, the department won't disclose the reasons behind the reinstatements.

"The best I can tell you is that we looked at the situation with our attorneys, and a settlement was the option that the agency thought was the best thing to put this behind us and move on," said Keith Acree, spokesman for the Department of Correction.

Acree cited state personnel laws to say the department can't talk about individual work performance.

North Carolina law does allow government agencies to release personnel information to ensure continued public confidence in the system. An agency must put the reason for disclosing the information in the affected employee's personnel file.

Morris and Faison declined to comment on their cases. While Faison has transferred to the Johnston County probation office, Morris is waiting for the next supervisory opening in the Durham County office.

Vincent Newman-Brooks, a former probation officer, has been a vocal critic of the state probation system, but he said he thought Faison did the best she could.

"She worked well with her staff, and she tried to maintain a professional atmosphere doing business according to what a probation officer should do," Newman-Brooks said.

None of the other nine Division of Community Corrections managers who lost their jobs in the shake-up challenged the moves or sought back pay.

State Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, said he wants to meet with probation officials to understand the two reinstatements.

"I have more questions than answers," Stam said. "It's something I will be asking the department about why there is no explanation. What steps did they take? But I don't pre-judge what the answers might be."