The voters of Madison County will have quite a unique opportunity in the 2014 election cycle. Rarely does a community have a chance to send a message that corruption in public office will not be tolerated.

Since I arrived in WNC in January 2012, I’ve heard horror stories of the political machinations in Madison County. Some folks wear this almost as a badge of honor.

We’ll all find out just how proudly that badge is worn next year, when John Ledford attempts to win back a badge of his own.

According to the Asheville Citizen-Times: Just days after news spread of John Ledford’s dismissal from the Alcohol Law Enforcement Agency, the former Madison County Sheriff made another announcement — he will run for his old office in 2014. Ledford, a Democrat, was Madison County Sheriff before he was appointed Director of ALE. He was named to the post by Democratic former Gov. Bev Perdue in 2009.

But when Republican Pat McCrory won the gubernatorial race in 2012, Ledford asked for a demotion to a field agent. He got that demotion, according to a scathing memo from the new NC Department of Public Safety Commissioner, Frank Perry, by breaking the law.

This conduct, the letter states, stems from a 2012 request by Ledford to be reassigned from law enforcement director to an agent position. At the time, according to the letter, the only open position, budgeted at $39,198, was in Wilmington.

Perry states that Ledford requested top pay for “advanced” competency level. You then, in effect, recommended approval of your own request by signing the personnel action clearance form in your capacity as division director,” the letter states. Perry said the request was then “confirmed” by Chief Operating Officer Mikael Gross, rather than the deputy director, deviating from the correct procedure. “Not only did this procedure result in approval of a request that should not have been approved, it also resulted in approval of excessive salary ($65,887.00) thereby making you the highest-paid special agent in the division.”

There were no vacant positions in Asheville, according to Perry. Ledford says he was dismissed for “political reasons.” Apparently, following the law is now considered to be a political thing. I’d be more willing to believe Ledford’s explanation, if not for a little issue that popped up last June (which I believe comes before the month of November – and, as such, before the election of the Republican Governor).

From WRAL: Officials in the state Department of Public Safety repeatedly blocked attempts by state auditors to investigate a complaint that two high-ranking Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement officers were misusing their state-owned vehicles, according to an audit released Tuesday.

The auditors were responding to a tip that ALE Director John Ledford and Deputy Director for Operations Allen Page were using their state-owned vehicles to commute to their homes near Asheville on the weekends.

State law allows the men to use their official vehicles for commuting but also requires them to live in or near Raleigh since they are based at headquarters. The men share an apartment in Raleigh, according to the audit, so they shouldn’t be using a state-owned car to commute elsewhere.

According to the audit, attempts to speak with ALE officers in Asheville were met with so much resistance that the State Auditor’s Office had to ask the Attorney General’s Office to prepare subpoenas to compel cooperation before ALE officials finally relented and spoke with investigators.

So, all this “politicking” that has targeted Democrat Ledford occurred under a Democratic Governor.

After an audit by a Democratic Auditor. Who asked the Democratic Attorney General to intervene.

Got it. Maybe it’s not everyone else, Mr. Ledford. Maybe it’s you. This is a chance for the folks in Madison County to help repair the image as a hotbed of political machine corruption. But, November 2014 is a long way off.

EXIT QUOTE: Ledford said, “…we are going to put back confidence within the Sheriff’s Office.”

Good luck with that.

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