Cape Carteret, N.C.

Oct. 21, 2019

TO THE EDITOR:

The real story about what happened with the former Cape Carteret Police Chief.

There have been many rumors, comments, letters to editors and “Fakebook” postings by people who had no personal knowledge of what really took place during the reign of the former chief. This is especially true for the Empty Shell Demagogue of Emerald Isle and the Community Antagonist of Cape Carteret. Many of the comments and postings made were done by the same people using different names to make it appear there was a groundswell of support for the former chief. To those who employed those tactics, the truth will fall on deaf ears. To those good and decent citizens of Cape Carteret, you are owed an explanation of the facts and circumstances that divided this community over the past two years. You are especially owed this considering the referendum on the ballot written and circulated by the Community Antagonist, who wants to return the town to the form of government that led to the mismanagement and corruption we endured in the past.

The following is based on information received from public records requests, court files, public record sources, interviews, telephone records, emails, interviews and my own personal interaction with the chief. Having been an investigator for over 45 years that included conducting numerous background investigations for police executive positions, I feel that I am amply qualified to comment.

First, let’s start with a brief history of how the former chief became chief. He initially worked full time for the N.C. Highway Patrol followed by a career with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. In order to keep his law enforcement certification during his full-time employment with H&HS he worked and trained part-time with Topsail Beach and Jacksonville. He began his part-time employment with Cape Carteret Oct. 15, 1999, working about once a month or so until he was appointed chief on Dec. 16, 2013. As a result of this full-time appointment he became eligible for the benefits of the Separation Allowance for Law-Enforcement Officers. Thus, the town of Cape Carteret would have had to pay him this supplement upon his retirement. It appears now that his last place of law enforcement employment was with Jacksonville from Sept. 7, 2018, until April 7, 2019. It is unknown if Jacksonville is paying the supplement. Fortunately, Cape Carteret isn’t.

The chief was hired on a recommendation of the former police chief, now town commissioner. It was noted by the then police commissioner to the new chief that Cape Carteret had one of the oldest Community Watch programs in the state and was asked if he would continue to support the efforts of the Watch. According to the then police commissioner, the chief assured him that he would. This, however, was not to be.

One of his first acts as chief was to have the Watch program ousted from the police department where it had maintained an office for over 30 years. He was able to brain wash the town board into believing that civilians were not allowed in police departments due to sensitive information contained therein. This was not a problem for over 30 years and apparently did not apply to a current candidate for the town board who worked in the police department as a civilian volunteer. In addition, he insisted that an interview/interrogation room was needed. This brain washing of the the town board didn’t take much soap considering the make-up of the board at the time.

What really has amazed me about the “concerned citizens” who have ranted and raved at town board meetings, on Fakebook and in letters to the editor about their support for law enforcement and their concern about crime, is that not one of them was ever a member of the Community Watch Program. How do I know? I was a member for three years and president of the Watch for one year. Never saw hide nor hair of one of these alleged “concerned citizens” who “want their town back.” Perhaps they never joined because a background record check was required of new members. Too bad that a background check wasn’t done before the chief was hired. A simple check of the court system would have revealed that he was charged with domestic criminal trespass in 2002 (Carteret County Court Docket #02CR0511620) this while he was a part-time officer for the town. The case was dismissed but why hasn’t he had the record expunged like the rest of us who were innocent and had charges dismissed?

In addition to the criminal charge, he was sued by the county for not paying child support. In fact, a default judgment was entered because he failed to respond to the court and his wages were to be garnished until he agreed to pay the county the back support he owed. (Carteret County Case 04CVD1108).

Yes, a mere record check would have revealed that he was not qualified to be chief. He probably was unfit to be a sworn officer. However, apparently a background investigation wasn’t done or was ignored. We’ll never know as his personnel file mysteriously disappeared after his termination and the departure of three other officers.

As far as I can determine, the chief had little if any actual criminal investigative experience. This is based on investigations he was involved with that I have had access to, that demonstrated his incompetence and untruthfulness. One example of this was when he and one of his officers failed to interview the only witness to an alleged assault. Of course, the interview may have resulted in the fact that an assault did not take place and that would have gone against what the chief’s motives were in the case.

In his continuing effort to gain control of the town, the chief gained board approval to move his office out of the police department into an empty office space adjacent to the police department. Again, not much soap was needed. With the backing of the ever absent police commissioner, unless there was a police department issue on the agenda, the board voted to let the chief move into the office space. This, of course, left an empty office in the police department that could have been used for the much-needed interview/interrogation room, however, that alleged need had already been satisfied with the ousting of the Watch Program from their office.

The move approved by the board cost the town at least $1,200 a month in rent. Money the town most definitely could have used considering the ever rising cost of funding the police department. My recollection from the board meeting was the police commissioner commented that the town should not be in the rental business anyway. Never mind the fact that the town leased the adjoining office space to an insurance agency and ran a town boat ramp, both revenue producers for the town.

There were consequences for those town employees who ran afoul of the chief. The long term town clerk at the time was targeted by the chief. Through conspiracy with three town commissioners, he had the clerk terminated. In addition, through the chief’s intimidation, the town finance officer resigned. This after she questioned an expenditure and was told to never question him again.

The chief’s vile and intimidating attitude was directed at other town employees. Two employee of public works were accosted by the chief Feb. 11, 2016, when they were attempting to hang the town seal on the front of the police department. Two of the employees reported the chief told them it was his building and stated it was some of the “Truax s***.” One of the employees wrote in part that “He (the chief) then got close to me and made me feel threatened.” And “He was in my face raising his voice and cursing at me … trying to intimidate and provoke me.”

There were a few though that got along with the chief, especially the new finance officer that he affectionately referred to as “princess.” Princess was able to use a town police officer who while on duty would do surveillance at the princess’s estranged spouse’s residence outside of town limits. After inappropriate emails were discovered on the town’s email between the chief and the “princess,” she abruptly resigned overnight via email blaming the mayor for a hostile work environment. Princess and a handful of other minions have joined the Community Antagonist who created the “Support Cape Carteret Police” Fakebok site.

There then came a time on June 6, 2017, when the chief seized on an opportunity to conspire with another officer, a known drug abuser, and yet to be identified anonymous female caller, to cause a commissioner to be charged with simple assault. While this incident was a personal family matter, when the known drug abuser called the police with an allegation of an assault, he jumped at the opportunity to inject himself in the matter by repeatedly calling the alleged victim encouraging her to go to the magistrate’s office and take out a warrant. A copy of the drug abuser’s cell phone records verifies the incoming calls that day from the police department. When the drug abuser finally caved to the repeated calls and went to the magistrate’s office, the chief arranged to have the warrant served by him at the commissioner’s residence. This was not to be as the commissioner, unaware of the warrant, went to the police department and was arrested there. However, the unidentified female caller previously alluded to had already called reporter Brad Rich leaving a message that she was  neighbor of the commissioner and had witnessed the commissioner being arrested in the driveway of the commissioner’s residence. This, of course, was not true, but the chief had already planned it that way including the anonymous call to the press.

After the commissioner was interrogated in the chief’s office suite, he sprang the arrest warrant on the commissioner. He then inappropriately searched and handcuffed the commissioner, did not allow the commissioner to make a phone call and then had the commissioner transported to the magistrate’s office. Once there, he surreptitiously photographed the commissioner inside the magistrate’s office in violation of Rule 15 (b) (2) of the General Rules of Practice for Courts of N.C., which says in part, “Electronic media and still photography coverage is “expressly prohibited” in “proceedings held before magistrates.” This photograph, taken with the chief’s cell phone was then shared via his G-mail account. After this occurrence the notice of “no photography” that cited the above noted rule was moved from inside the magistrate’s office and posted on the door leading into the magistrate’s office. It was from there, outside the office door, that the chief took the illegal photograph.

Of significance in all this is that on April 4, 2017, another Cape Carteret police officer, who had been a school resource officer until he was banned from the school for a Facebook posting, told the same drug abuser noted above, that he couldn’t wait to put handcuffs on the commissioner. So, the animosity toward the commissioner within the police department was rampant. In fact, when acting Chief Wrenn Johnson took over the department and did her own investigation of issues therein, she concluded that the chief’s actions against the commissioner was an attempt on his part to affect the outcome of the upcoming municipal election in the fall of 2017. As with the chief’s personnel file, her investigative report mysteriously disappeared from the town’s files.

The police commissioner during most of this time did little if any oversight of the police department. In fact, the stated reason for him to run for commissioner in 2015 was to unseat the then police commissioner. Once in office he failed to attend numerous board meetings, missed a budget retreat and refused to have a town commissioner email address. When the town transformed to first having a city administrator and then a town manager, both moves approved unanimously by the board, the chief refused to answer to anyone but the police commissioner.  A memorandum of understanding was developed so the chief would answer to the police commissioner on police matters and the town administrator on other matters. I cannot fathom a situation in which a memorandum of understanding would be fashioned to meet the demands of any department head in any government entity. Typically, this is done between two government agencies such as from one law enforcement agency to another.

After the ever absent police commissioner was defeated for re-election in 2017, he joined forces with the Community Antagonist writing inaccurate and misleading information on the Fakebook page. An example of this is a posting on Jan. 24, 2018, when after ranting and raving about the way the chief was treated, alleged the town spent thousands in Christmas lights after cutting the police budget. The Christmas lights he referred to were donated by Lowes. The town didn’t spend any money on the lights. This is but one example of how he and the Fakebook page were used to spread misinformation by people with personal agendas that were typically contrary to the best interests of the town.

My own personal experience with the chief occurred on Aug. 21, 2017, in town hall. I had previously put in a public records request for information concerning the arrest of the commissioner to learn who the anonymous caller to the press was. This was the only missing piece of the puzzle. After repeated attempts to meet him at his office, leaving message after message and not being able to find him in his office on several Friday afternoons even though his office door indicated work hours from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., I went to town hall on the morning of the 21st. There I found the door leading from the lobby to the town offices open and walked part way down the hall and asked if anyone was there. The chief came out of an office walking by me and toward the outside door. I asked him how long it was going to be before he complied with the public records request. I followed him outside where I again asked him about the request. He kept walking toward the police department ignoring my question. At this point I spoke loudly enough so he could near me calling him an arrogant pr..  and stated you know what you did and so do I.

I then proceeded back into the town hall lobby where he came charging back through the door, got right in my face and proceeded to try and intimidate me, very much like what he had done to the two public work employees. The entire episode was on video tape, a copy of which I have. Once he learned that the episode was on video, he was advised to write an incident report to cover himself. The report, which I have a copy of, is complete with lies of what happened to include his insinuation that I used a racial slur toward him. If calling someone an arrogant pr… is a racial slur, then I am guilty, however he alleged in pulling the race card that I yelled something that ended in “can.” This is like most of his report, not true. This entire episode was witnessed by town employees and a fellow citizen.

There are other situations wherein the chief acted in an unethical way. Like writing on a commissioner’s birthday card how he likes seeing her in shorts. Through his actions or inactions the only female officer  resigned due to his mistreatment. Of note in this event was the police commissioner announcing at a board meeting, that he actually attended, that the officer was a crazy girl anyway.

When the new board was seated after the 2017 election, the chief lost the confidence of two new members and along with a brave and courageous vote by the commissioner that he plotted against, he was terminated. The two commissioners who voted no on the dismissal will have to answer why after knowing everything spelled out here and even more, how they could continue to support a chief that was illegal, unethical and immoral.

If the citizens of Cape Carteret opt to vote yes on the referendum on this year’s ballot and want to return to a system that led to mismanagement and yes, corruption, then so be it. If, however, the citizens want to continue with the progress made by the mayor, the board and town staff to have an efficient, professional and less political town form of government then this referendum must be defeated with a NO vote.

WAYNE TRUAX

(3) comments

Average Joe

What a bias bunch of hogwash, why the sudden attack on a man who isnt even in the public eye?

Is it to cover a hidden agenda of some? Are we trying to shift attention from the no good government we have? A vindictive Mayor with a hand full of corrupt commisioners and an escape goat in a town manager.

Wake up Zach Steffy you are going to take the fall for these clowns.

Good luck

saltydog

Last week was an outgoing Commissioner. This week, her husband.

Just when it seems Cape Carteret is about to put some of this behind them and move forward, some want to stir it back up. That town can't win for losing. Who's next?

CARTERETISCORRUPT

This sort of corruption is exactly what I have been vocal about in Carteret County since 2010. This county is awash in corruption, and aside from editorial letters, the newspaper has been silent on this. No efforts to find the truth and report to the public. Intimidation does work, and falsehoods repeated enough are accepted as fact. Then we have the attacks on one's character based on the same falsehoods, used by the corrupt here in Carteret County. One point in this article though needs to be addressed; the expunction mentioned by the writer. Whether or not the ex chief expunged his arrest record or not has little bearing on the chiefs history. A dismissal is exactly that; the state cannot make a case. Second, an arrest history means nothing, as our system of justice only recognizes convictions. In this state anyone can be arrested based on nothing at all, given the magistrate system we have. The old saying "You can indict a ham sandwich" is very true here in North Carolina. Finally, the legislature changed the law; now a person can expunge an arrest record without limits. It used to be you could only once in a lifetime. That has changed. The more fitting and just approach would be to delete any history if a case is dismissed or found not guilty. Maintaining a arrest record in todays computer age, is punishing a person without trial. The ex chiefs past arrest history should not have been included by the writer, and was only used to be inflammatory.

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