No Facts To Back Up RMA Claims, Part 89
Cops in Black & White by Jerry Bledsoe, Part 89
November 12, 2009
In the fall of 2005, newly appointed City Manager Mitch Johnson hired a private investigative group, Risk Management Associates (RMA) of Raleigh, to review an investigation by two assistant city attorneys.
Nearly five months earlier, Lt. James Hinson had created a crisis for the Police Department and city government when he went public with claims that he and other black officers had been targeted for investigation by "secret police" because of race.
Those claims were false, but Hinson and black officers were represented by a black lawyer, Joe Williams, who is a powerful leader of the Simkins PAC, which for many years had successfully directed the black vote in Greensboro. Less than two months after the crisis began, City Manager Ed Kitchen, who is white, retired – a move he'd planned before the crisis erupted.
Deputy Manager Mitch Johnson, who is white, became acting manager. He wanted the job full time and needed support from the black community to achieve that. Within days of Kitchen's retirement, Williams met with Johnson and City Attorney Linda Miles. Johnson arranged for Williams and representatives of black officers to confront Wray in a lengthy meeting that Wray later described as an "inquisition." Johnson then ordered the investigation by two female assistant city attorneys, one white, the other black. Neither were trained investigators.
After RMA was hired, its president, Michael Longmire, assigned himself and two other investigators to review that investigation. The three investigators were former law enforcement officers. All were male and white.
Within five weeks of signing the contract with the city, RMA completed a 31-page report about the complex events that led to the crisis. Although the report was light in evidence and heavy with supposition and innuendo, Johnson used the report to lock Wray out of his office and force his resignation on Jan. 9, 2006.
Part IV of that report contains 38 conclusions. Only two of those are based in fact. All the rest are false or flawed with inaccuracies, critical omissions or unfounded opinion. Twenty-seven of those conclusions have been analyzed in earlier installments of Cops in Black & White.
The 28th conclusion is this: "There are facts and circumstances to support a finding that Wray may have violated the Personnel Privacy Act and statutes forbidding public officials to engage in collective bargaining with unions and his actions and communications with union representatives on June 16, 2005."
When reputable investigators make charges of law violations, they are required to clearly state the evidence. How did Wray violate the personnel privacy laws? What exactly did he say and to whom did he say it? Exactly how did he engage in collective bargaining with a union? What were the terms of their agreement?
As usual, the RMA report provides none of the facts and circumstances that it claims exist. It's not enough for investigators to suggest that somebody may have violated laws. The job of investigators is to lay out detailed facts, not suggestions.
The meeting with union representatives took place on the evening of June 16, 2005, the day before Wray suspended James Hinson and held a press conference to attempt to quell the crisis Hinson had created. It occurred at the request of Bill Hill, the lawyer for the police union, which ardently opposed Wray's implementation of rotating shifts to deal more effectively with higher crime periods. Hill, who is white, had earlier leaked to the News & Record preliminary results from a union survey designed to be critical of Wray. Hill also had publicly supported Hinson's false claims of racial discrimination even though, Hinson, as a supervisor, wasn't a union member.
Wray said that he spoke to Ed Kitchen about this, and Kitchen urged him to meet with the union officers. Current Police Chief Tim Bellamy, who was then an assistant chief, accompanied Wray to the meeting. Four officers who were union members were present. Two were white, two black. One of the black officers was female. Wray said he met with them because he wanted them to understand that Hinson had been investigated with due cause and that neither Hinson nor any other officers had been targeted because of race. To do that, he said, he had to answer their questions about the two investigations of Hinson, but, he said, he revealed nothing from Hinson's personnel file, which the privacy law protects.
"I explained to them what was going on as best I could," Wray recalled. "I assured them that we have a process and we have to honor the process."
At no point did he negotiate anything with these officers, Wray said, and to his knowledge none of them had authority to negotiate on behalf of the union. If negotiations had taken place at the meeting, Bellamy, who is black, would have been guilty of the same offense as Wray. The RMA report doesn't mention that.
RMA conclusion 29: "Wray provided misleading and deceptive information to citizens of Greensboro in subsequent press releases and comments to the media regarding the suspension of Hinson and a connection to the federal OCDETF [Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force] investigation ('connect the dots')."
Wray issued only one statement after Hinson was suspended. He read it at a press conference several hours after suspending Hinson on the afternoon of June 17, 2005. The statement makes no mention of Hinson, and it contains nothing that the RMA report proves to be misleading or deceptive. Nothing in it was intended to be misleading or deceptive, Wray said.
Wray did not take questions at the press conference and gave no interviews to reporters after Hinson's suspension. The allusion to "connect the dots" is in regard to an article in the News & Record by Lorraine Ahearn in which she made it appear that Wray had granted her an interview when instead he was declining to be interviewed in a telephone call she made to him at a public event. Wray said that Ahearn took something that he said to her in a personal context, altered it and connected it to something he had said in another context to make it into something he neither intended, nor spoke.
Contrary to the RMA report's claim in this conclusion, the first investigation of Hinson was connected to a federal OCDETF case.
RMA conclusion 30: "That on June 16th Wray knew that there was not a factual basis for any criminal allegation regarding Hinson and directed [Assistant Chief Craig] Hartley to oversee an administrative investigation. The next day in his press statement Wray implied that Hinson was criminally associated with the Turnbull organization."
This is false. Wray did instruct Hartley, who is white, to hire back two retired Internal Affairs detectives, Dannie Thacker, who is black, and Dennis Wyrick, who is white, to investigate all of Hinson's questionable activities in recent years. But Wray didn't know that there was no basis for any criminal charges at that time and neither did anybody else. In fact, they thought just the opposite.
Detectives had gathered evidence that on several occasions Hinson had worked off duty jobs while on duty and they believed that this constituted fraud. On June 21, five days after Wray issued his statement, this evidence was taken to District Attorney Stuart Albright, who is white. He recommended that the case be handled internally. Albright is now a Superior Court judge.
In addition to this, early in July 2005, an investigation was begun into Hinson's involvement with an unlicensed private security company called 2Tyght. That investigation was prompted by a call from the Private Protective Services unit of the State Attorney General's Office. A Greensboro city employee had filed a complaint that Hinson was providing security for a club through 2Tyght. Detectives learned that Hinson and other black officers had worked off duty for 2Tyght while wearing police uniforms, a violation of state law, while Robert White, who is black, was chief.
This investigation also unearthed evidence about questionable activities involving private charities that Hinson operated. The lead detective recommended that a criminal investigation be conducted but that didn't occur because of interference by the city manager and city attorney.
The Turnbull organization to which this conclusion refers was run by Elton Turnbull, who is black. It was part of an international cocaine cartel that was brought down in the fall of 2002 by the arrests of Turnbull and many of his associates. The first investigation of Hinson was begun after Hinson's telephone numbers were found in Turnbull's safe and wallet. Wray made no implication in his press statement that Hinson was criminally associated with Turnbull as the RMA report maintains.
RMA conclusion 31: "After initiating the Thacker/Wyrick administrative investigation into Hinson, Wray directed and allowed [Detective Scott] Sanders and the intelligence unit to continue criminal investigations of various allegations of a criminal and administrative nature against Hinson, Fulmore and other officers."
This is false. Wray did not direct Sanders, whose racial designation is Pacific Islander, or anybody else to continue investigations against Hinson, although he was briefed about the investigation into Hinson's involvement with 2Tyght. The RMA report provides no evidence that investigations of Fulmore or any officers other than Hinson took place after Thacker and Wyrick were hired back. In fact, no other officers were investigated.
RMA conclusion 32: "There is evidence that this 'pile-on' effort was directed after the discovery of the Walton report that cleared Hinson of the misconduct for which he was suspended."
There was no such thing as a "Walton Report that cleared Hinson." In February 2004, the investigation into Hinson's involvement with Turnbull and a stripper who worked for Turnbull and had been mistress to Hinson as well as Turnbull was turned over to Internal Affairs. Ryan Walton, who is white, was the detective assigned to the case. The sergeant who oversaw the case was Levester Thomas, a friend of Hinson. Thomas is black.
No investigation of Hinson was conducted, only a review to determine if an investigation was necessary. Walton, Thomas, and Internal Affairs commander, Capt. Dwight Crotts, now an assistant chief, determined that no investigation was required without even questioning Hinson. Crotts is white. Walton didn't write a report. Instead he prepared a single-page memo for what are called the frag files stating that no investigation was necessary. The memo was not put into Hinson's personnel file. Wray, Hartley and the new Internal Affairs captain, Matt Lojko, had not been made aware of Walton's memo until Thacker and Wyrick discovered it late in July 2005.
The RMA report doesn't explain what a pile-on effort is, or provide any evidence that one was directed. It appears to be referring to the investigation of Hinson's involvement with 2Tyght. However, that investigation began more than two weeks before the discovery of the Walton memo by Thacker and Wyrick and therefore couldn't have been instigated because of it.
RMA conclusion 33: "Deputy Chief Brady made an inappropriate comment that brings into question his objectivity in the oversight of the on-going investigative efforts involving Hinson. It also suggests malice on the part of the police management of this on-going effort."
Once again, the RMA report offers suggestions instead of facts. No evidence of malice is provided. This is another instance in which critical information is omitted.
In the summer of 2005, a confidential informant in a federal prison in Virginia began providing information to homicide detectives who were investigating the disappearance and presumed murder of a stripper who worked as a courier for Turnbull. The information was coming from a drug dealer who was an associate of Turnbull. Turnbull was at the same prison. The informant said that a police officer believed to be Hinson had provided false identification papers for the stripper, and that a woman who worked for the officer was a regular visitor to Turnbull.
Brady wanted Thacker and Wyrick to participate in an interview with the informant by homicide detectives so they could gather information on Hinson for their internal investigation. Gary Hastings, the commander of Criminal Investigations, opposed that. An argument ensued, in which Brady, noting that Turnbull already was in prison on a lengthy sentence, said that he'd be willing to give up a homicide case against Turnbull to get evidence on Hinson. Later, he said that he had spoken in exasperation and knew it was inappropriate when it came out of his mouth.
This was a confidential discussion between two top commanders. But Hastings returned to his division and told others about Brady's remark. It spread quickly throughout the department. Because confidential information from the department regularly got to drug dealers, the informant had to be moved to another prison for his safety and he no longer had access to his source. That ended the investigation. Wray reprimanded both Brady and Hastings over the incident.
RMA conclusion 34: "The Guilford County District Attorney learned of this exculpatory comment and had additional related concerns that he discussed with Chief Wray. This issues [sic] brought to Wray's attention could jeopardize any successful prosecution of Hinson for any alleged criminal violations investigated by the GPD."
This conclusion doesn't define the "additional related concerns" that Albright supposedly discussed with Wray. Earlier in the report, it says those concerns were about the investigative tactics of Sanders and Brian Bissett, a federal task force detective, but both Wray and Albright said they didn't discuss Sanders and Bissett. The RMA investigators also fail to mention that it was Joe Williams who brought Brady's statement to Albright's attention.
RMA conclusion 35: "The District Attorney recommended that future criminal investigations into Hinson and a second black GPD officer (Fulmore) be referred to the SBI."
It's true that Albright suggested that any future investigations of Hinson be conducted by the SBI, and Wray said he had no problem with that. Wray, however, didn't recall Albright making any mention of Fulmore, although Albright said he thought he did. An investigation of Fulmore had been initiated by the Guilford County Sheriff's Office in the fall of 2003, and the responsibility of that investigation had fallen to the SBI. The Vice and Narcotics Division of the Police Department began a new investigation of Fulmore in June 2004. Internal Affairs had taken over that investigation, and it had been completed five months before Albright came to talk to Wray about Brady's comment. There would have been no reason for bringing up Fulmore at that time.
RMA conclusion 36: "Wray did not share the District Attorney's recommendations with Deputy Chief Brady and criminal investigations have continued."
This is false. The RMA report offers no evidence to support this conclusion. Both Wray and Brady say that Wray did share Albright's recommendations with Brady, and the transcript of Brady's interview with RMA investigators shows that he told them that. The only investigation that continued was that of Hinson by Thacker and Wyrick, and it was nearing completion. No other investigations were underway or were begun.
RMA conclusion 37: "There is an apparent climate of divisiveness between commanders within the GPD that has precluded experienced and knowledgeable commanders from ensuring that best police operational and management practice [sic]."
This conclusion makes little sense. There was a division in the command staff between supporters of Wray and former Assistant Chief Bill Stafford, who had been a leading candidate for chief when Wray got the job. Stafford, who is white, retired in the fall of 2004. However, the RMA report provides no evidence that any commanders were precluded from ensuring any practices, and Wray says that none were.
RMA conclusion 38: "The mismanagement and inappropriate investigative actions rose to a level of concern that the SBI supervisor and the Guilford County District Attorney made an unprecedented visit to the Chief of Police to discuss their concerns and negative affect [sic] of those issues on their offices."
This is false. Albright's visit with Wray was hardly unprecedented. Both described it as cordial and productive. Wray said that Albright mentioned nothing to him about "mismanagement and inappropriate investigative actions," and Albright concurred.
The SBI supervisor that the RMA report refers to is James Bowman. Wray said that Bowman came to see him in February 2004, 16 months before the crisis created by Hinson. Bowman came to talk about the investigation of Project Homestead, which the SBI had assumed from the Police Department with Wray's approval. Bowman said nothing to him about mismanagement or inappropriate investigative actions, Wray said. At that point, the SBI's investigation of Fulmore, in which Scott Sanders had participated, had just ended. Bowman did mention that he'd heard there was "bad blood" between Sanders and Fulmore, Wray said, but he never said anything bad about Sanders or his tactics.