Two weeks ago, N.C. Crime Control Secretary Reuben Young faced television cameras to announce that a Highway Patrol major had resigned after sending hundreds of flirtatious text messages to a patrol secretary married to a trooper.
The major's boss, who had promoted him months earlier, was nowhere in sight.
Patrol Cmdr. Randy Glover's absence as the patrol dealt with the latest in a series of sexual peccadilloes was a reminder that he, too, is a member of that club. As a trooper in Harnett County in 1987, he admitted to an affair with a county dispatcher and was transferred to New Bern.
There, he became friends with a state lawmaker who represented New Bern. That lawmaker, Bev Perdue, was elected governor in 2008, and nine months later, she moved Glover into the patrol's top spot. Both pledged the patrol would become a more ethical, by-the-book organization.
Since then, the patrol has not rid itself of trooper misbehavior, and Perdue has grown frustrated.
This afternoon, she is to announce "significant" changes to improve the patrol's professionalism after she, Glover and Young meet with roughly 160 patrol supervisors. Some ask whether Perdue's changes will include relieving Glover of his command.
Before Maj. Everett Clendenin resigned over the texting, a troop commander was fired for drunken driving after a traffic stop that Butner police tried to conceal. A trooper in Asheville resigned after being charged with drunken driving and felony hit and run. In Wake County, a trooper resigned and is under criminal investigation for the way he treated a female motorist during a May 24 stop.
"Just from what I've seen, from my opinion, she'd probably be better off really considering some changes at the top," said Rep. Jimmy Love, a Sanford Democrat who oversees justice and public safety spending. "I think that's where the public feels the problem is."
Perdue could not be reached for comment on her plans. Her press secretary, Chrissy Pearson, declined to say whether Perdue is considering leadership changes.
Neither Glover nor Young, his boss, could be reached for comment about Glover. Spokesman Jeff Gordon said Young handled Clendenin's resignation announcement June 23 because Young is in charge of the entire department.
Glover has said his mistake more than two decades ago would not affect his ability to lead the roughly 1,800-member force.
But at least in one case, a lawyer has said he plans to raise Glover's affair to argue that his client should keep his job. That client, former Trooper Anthony Scott, was initially demoted by Glover last year after being caught while he was on duty in the home of a married woman with whom he was in a relationship.
While there, the woman's estranged husband showed up. Scott left the home only to find out later, his attorney said, that the husband had threatened to kill his wife and Scott.
Reuben Young later fired Scott, who is now seeking his job back in a state administrative court.
Friends with governor
It's not just the blemish in Glover's past that has raised questions about his leadership. Some have contended that his friendship with Perdue suggests that his ascent was aided more by politics than performance.
Jacquelyn Walker, a longtime patrol secretary who retired last year, said there's some truth to that.
In 1995, Perdue was a chief Senate budget writer and Glover had become a line sergeant working in Carteret County. Perdue, Walker said, told a Highway Patrol commander to add Glover to an already-prepared promotion list and move him back to New Bern.
Walker said that after Perdue called Cecil Wilkins, who was then the commander, Wilkins told Walker to add two more promotions to the list. Patrol records show that First Sgt. Willard Mitchell was promoted to lieutenant and transferred out of New Bern, while Glover was promoted to first sergeant and transferred to New Bern.
"He was known as her boy all through these years," Walker said.
Wilkins declined to comment.
Glover and Mitchell have confirmed they were promoted after the initial list was released and that they were not given an explanation for the moves. Glover has also said that he is unaware of Perdue's ever aiding his career until she made him commander.
But Perdue has a history of involvement in trooper promotions and transfers that came under a federal grand jury's scrutiny in the mid-1990s. Investigators were looking at politicians' influence in promotions and hires, and phone records showed that Perdue had received more calls from troopers during promotion time than any other lawmaker.
Helping them advance
At the time, Perdue said that she had taken an interest in troopers seeking advancement but had never demanded that anyone be promoted.
"I don't believe that, in 1995, demands are listened to," she said.
More recently, Perdue and her spokeswoman have declined to discuss whether Perdue pushed Glover's promotion in 1995.
Glover rose to the No. 2 position in the patrol under Cmdr. Walter J. Wilson Jr., and supporters say he deserved the top job. Retired patrol Maj. David Munday, now a law enforcement consultant, said Glover was an outstanding sergeant when Munday supervised him.
"He earned his position as commander," Munday said. "Is there somebody out there who would do a better job? I don't know."
Glover's promotion of Clendenin in March drew questions from retired troopers, who said Clendenin, who had been the patrol's chief spokesman, had not spent enough time in the field. That wasn't Glover's only controversial personnel move. In his first days on the job, he shoved a highly regarded major, Mike James, out the door.
Munday and other former patrol leaders called James smart, by the book and fair to those under his command. The patrol thought so highly of James that in 1989 it paid for him to attend Northwestern University's Traffic Institute, a nine-month program at the suburban Chicago school. He was overseeing field operations when Glover took over.
Glover told him to put in his retirement papers.
"All he said was, 'I want to go in a different direction,' " said James, 51. In an internal memo obtained by The News & Observer, James wrote that "it is unfortunate and unfair that I was forced to retire from an organization that I dedicated most of my life to."
James said Glover did not explain what direction he wanted to take the patrol. As commander, Glover can make changes among his top deputies, including dismissing anyone with the rank of major or above, without cause. The positions, including James' job, are exempt from the state's personnel law.
Bill Thompson, a former trooper and friend of James, said Glover sent a bad signal when he forced James' retirement.
"Other people have earned their position by merit, and Randy Glover hasn't," Thompson said.
Past commanders have made similar moves in shaping their command staffs, and faced similar accusations of playing the patronage game.
Some say the patrol's history of political machinations suggest that it's time someone from outside the organization be brought in to lead it. But that would require a change in state law, which requires that the patrol commander come from within.
Love, the Sanford lawmaker, wants lawmakers to hold hearings about the patrol's problems. He said that might be a change worth enacting.
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