The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) will investigate the Hamlet seized car cases once again.
The new investigation was prompted by Richmond County District Attorney Reece Saunders, said Noelle Talley, spokeswoman for the SBI, in an email to The Daily Journal. This new investigation will look into possible forgery and misuse of court orders related to the seized cars.
The SBI previously investigated allegations that the former Hamlet chief of police, John Haywood, had allegedly stolen town money. Haywood started his new job with the Rockingham Police Department earlier this month.
“That investigation was completed earlier this year and reviewed by special prosecutors here in the Attorney General’s Office, who found evidence of poor management but no criminal wrongdoing in the case,” said Talley.
Talley did not answer a number of questions asked by The Daily Journal, including: when the investigation would begin, what its focus and scope will be and will manpower might be involved.
Abbie Covington, Hamlet city council member, was pleased to hear about the new investigation.
“I’m glad to see someone making an effort to resolve this,” Covington said. “Especially for the ones who were directly affected by this.”
The new investigation will be focusing on blank court orders that were allegedly used to dispose of some of the vehicles, Covington said.
“They (SBI) had this information all along,” Covington said. “They are likely now taking a look at it again due to the interest this story has gathered. I would hate to see this situation glossed over. Our obligation is to make it right where it needs to be made right.”
With regards to Haywood’s termination, Covington wanted to make it clear that Haywood was not terminated based on the previous criminal investigation from the SBI.
“Haywood was terminated due to his negligence in performing his job as a police chief,” Covington said. “As found by the Employment Security Commission (of North Carolina), Haywood was rightly terminated for gross negligence in the discharge of his administrative duties and failure to comply with known accounting and property purchase and disposal requirements. He was terminated even before the SBI investigation began.”
Marchell David, Hamlet city manager, believes that this is a step in the right direction for the town.
“We welcome the SBI to take another look at the complete situation to make sure that everything has been done properly so it doesn’t devalue what and who we are,” David said. “This will help us draw closure to a situation that we would like to put behind us.”
Attempts to reach council members Johnathan Buie and Pat Preslar for this story were unsuccessful.