Imagine devoting years of your life to public service, to a job where you’ve sworn to protect and serve the people, and with your 20 year anniversary so close it’s just a few hash marks on the calendar away, you are fired.
Your long-term employment with the city you love is terminated. In the time it takes to sign your name, it’s over.
Why? Because of paperwork. Because i’s weren’t dotted and t’s weren’t crossed, the man who ran the Hamlet Police Department, former chief John Haywood, is out of a job.
Haywood was fired on Sept. 7 by Hamlet City Manager Marchell David.
In an email to the Daily Journal, David said Haywood was terminated for “failure in performance of duties” and “misuse and gross negligence in the handling of city funds and property.”
She went on to explain the circumstances: “These are the events that lead up to the dismissal. The chief’s approval of the disposition of city property (seized vehicles). The failure to keep accurate records of financial transactions in the police department. The failure to run all financial matters through the proper channels.”
Haywood broke days of silence last week and spoke with the Daily Journal about the matter.
He said the situation began in January when the police department was cleaning up its firing range and needed to get rid of seized vehicles, some of which were over 20 years old. The cars were taken to be salvaged per court order, and Officer Michael Veach collected the funds, he said.
“We got paid for the vehicles and Veach put the money in his office,” said Haywood. “I never knew how much money it was.” They turned around and used the money for departmental odds and ends; paint, screws, brushes. While Haywood said the money was only spent on departmental improvements, he admitted he didn’t go through the appropriate channels.
“We failed to deem the stuff surplus through city council,” Haywood said. ” … But there was no money missing. We have all the receipts.”
Veach also reportedly bought back one of the old vehicles for $405 — the same price the scrap yard paid, but perhaps not the best course of action for the officer.
“(Veach) was let go for three different things; a combination of administrative mistakes. I failed to supervise the officers. I failed to make sure they had done the right thing. It’s all administrative though — it’s not criminal,” Haywood said.
David, assigning herself the role as judge and jury, unceremoniously terminated his job — using a sledgehammer to swat a fly.
Why request a State Bureau of Investigation probe of the matter only to fire Haywood before the SBI had a chance to begin or complete an investigation?
It hints at an official who’s let authority go to her head, and an elected city council that by design or neglect has let this woman wield too much power.
Did Haywood deserve to be fired for administrative blunders? We say no. Haywood deserved better.
Hamlet officials now have the task of shoring up a shaken police department, and answering cries from the people they’re supposed to serve who want to know why this happened.
When all is said and done, Haywood got a raw deal, and it must hurt that it comes from the very city he served for two decades.
— Editor's Note: Publisher Rick Bacon did not read nor approve of this editorial.