Probation officers' demotions reversed

Judge restores pair's status as supervisors

FROM STAFF REPORTSSeptember 10, 2009 

Two probation officials who were demoted last year during a series of personnel moves have been reinstated to their supervisory status.

The officials, Cheryl Morris, a chief probation and parole officer in Durham County, and Cindy Faison, a chief probation and parole officer in Wake County, were demoted last summer to probation officers.

An administrative law judge ordered that the women be put back in their supervisory positions with back pay.

The demotions of Morris and Faison came after state officials ordered an internal investigation into the probation department following the arrests of Demario Atwater and Laurence Alvin Lovette. The men, who were both on probation, are charged with killing Eve Carson, the popular UNC-Chapel Hill student body president. Lovette is charged also with killing Duke University graduate student Abhijit Mahato.

Keith Acree, a spokesman for the Department of Correction, said he could not say specifically why the women were demoted, citing personnel law.

An investigation showed that Atwater and Lovette had scant supervision while on probation for other crimes. Lovette had gone nearly two months without ever meeting his probation officers, and Atwater's case was passed on to 10 different officers. He went more than a year without hearing from any probation officers despite racking up an additional gun conviction.

State probation officials dismantled the leadership in the Durham and Wake probation offices. The top three managers in Wake and the top two in Durham left their positions in a shakeup that included transfers, a retirement and demotions. Two officers assigned to Atwater resigned after his arrest, as did Lovette's probation officer.

The News & Observer later reported in a series called "Losing Track" that the probation system had lost touch with nearly 14,000 criminals whom it was supposed to supervise. Since the start of 2000, 580 people have killed in North Carolina while under the watch of probation officers.

Back to probation jobs

Morris and Faison appealed the disciplinary action, Acree said.

They settled the cases with the Department of Correction this past spring. According to their agreements, their disciplinary records will be expunged in addition to them being reinstated to their supervisory roles.

Both women are now waiting for supervisory positions to come open, Acree said. Morris will return to Durham, and Faison will go to work in Johnston County, according to their settlement agreements.

Until such positions come open, both will work as probation officers, but they will be paid supervisors' salaries. Morris will make $46,748, and Faison will earn $48,080. Faison also was awarded $5,700 in attorney's fees.

Both women will receive back pay from Aug. 1, 2008, through June.

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