The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is in the process of investigating activities at the Hamlet Police Department at the request of the District Attorney’s office.
When asked Thursday afternoon if the SBI was in the process of investigating issues concerning the recent termination of Police Chief John Haywood, Richmond County District Attorney Reece Saunders said, “I’ve requested an SBI investigation into the activity concerning the Hamlet Police Department.”
Saunders said he made the request on July 31, and that the investigation was currently “ongoing.”
Haywood was fired on Sept. 7 for “failure in performance of duties” and “misuse and gross negligence in the handling of city funds and property,” according to Hamlet City Manager Marchell David.
According to a statement released by David to the Daily Journal, after a written request was submitted Tuesday, “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,” were cited as the “events that lead up to the dismissal.”
Haywood spoke with the Daily Journal on Thursday and 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 on Thursday. “I never knew how much money it was.”
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,” he said. “So when an accountant would come to audit, there would have been nothing about that money or where it came from. But there was no money missing. We have all the receipts. The city manager called the district attorney’s office and requested that SBI investigate Michael Veach.”
“One kicker was that out of these cars turned in, Veach bought an old truck and got a bill of sale for $405, the scrap price,” continued Haywood. “He has one like it and wanted it for parts. He 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.”
Repeated calls made by the Daily Journal to Veach, including calls Thursday, were not returned.
Haywood said that when he was approached by the city manager, she had the termination papers already drafted. Upon discussing the matter further, David extended him the opportunity to resign, but Haywood declined.
“At first, she told me I was terminated,” he said. “The paperwork had already been handed to me, written and done.”
Haywood said he is upset over the termination, has lost sleep and weight, and is ready for his life to move forward. He said he felt as though the time and money he put into the department over the course of his 20 years was wasted. He said that included grants he secured for the department.
“For us, it was just about getting rid of junk and getting things we needed for investigative purposes,” Haywood said. “I have receipts for paint and screws and brushes. It wasn’t like we were going to Hooters or the strip club. (The items purchased with the money) were things we needed.”
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.