State News

Highway Patrol to Fight Trooper's Reinstatement

Posted September 24, 2007 11:44 a.m. EDT
Updated September 24, 2007 6:56 p.m. EDT

— The state Highway Patrol plans to appeal a judicial order to reinstate a trooper who was fired for having sex in his patrol car and at his trooper station.

"It's almost an insult to the Highway Patrol to have to take back or be ordered to hire back someone who was committing such an outrageous conduct while on duty, while doing the state's business," said Lt. Everett Clendenin, of the Highway Patrol.

Administrative Law Judge Melissa Owens Lassiter said last week that former Trooper Monty Stevens Poarch's behavior was egregious enough to warrant being fired. But she also ruled that Poarch, who was fired in 2003, should get both his job back and back pay.

Poarch is now a lieutenant with the sheriff's department in Caldwell County.

Lassiter said Poarch's attorney should have the opportunity to present other cases in which troopers had sex while on duty, including one trooper who had sex with the same woman as Poarch. Another trooper wasn't fired although he also had sex while on duty and made more than 20 threatening calls to his ex-wife.

Gov. Mike Easley said he was backing the Highway Patrol in its appeal to the State Personnel Commission and wouldn't let Poarch return to the job, a spokesman said Monday.

"The governor is adamant that we're not going to give the badge of law enforcement officer to somebody with issues of moral turpitude," Easley spokesman Seth Effron said. "Now that the judge has ruled, she can give that officer a job. But he won't be working for the state Highway Patrol as long as Gov. Easley is in office."

The cases Lassiter referenced in her ruling occurred under Col. Richard W. Holden, who led the patrol from 1999 to 2004.

Col. Fletcher Clay, who became patrol commander in July 2004, said he has "made it crystal clear these types of behaviors are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Troopers know that if they engage in this type of behavior their jobs will be in jeopardy."

Clendenin said the patrol can't reopen the disciplinary cases of troopers who committed similar behavior but were allowed to remain on the force under Holden.

"These troopers should not be a part of this organization. Now, there's nothing we can do about that," he said. "If that activity had taken place today, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that each and every one would be fired."

The case is the latest black eye for the Highway Patrol. In the past month, the agency has fired one trooper who targeted young women for late-night traffic stops and another who abused a K-9 officer in a training exercise. A third trooper resigned after two women said he forced them to kiss him, and a fourth was dismissed for undisclosed reasons.