Of 27 sworn positions in the town’s police department, four employees have quit in about a four-month span.
A total of 12 employees have either resigned or been dismissed within the past four years.
Although he had been promoted to Patrol Lt. on Feb. 28, Lt. Orlando Soto resigned last month to work as captain for the Rolesville Police Department starting May 1.
Lt. Charles Capps Jr. tendered his resignation letter less than a month later, on March 26, listing simply that “after careful thought and consideration” he had “decided to resign.”
Both former lieutenants declined to comment on details of their departure.
Nathan Gant, a former officer of the year, was terminated Dec. 29, 2014 but later appealed his decision. As part of the negotiations surrounding his appeal, he was allowed to resign.
Matt Kempinski resigned as an officer a week later, on Jan. 6, according to town records. Kempinski had been demoted Oct. 11, 2014, the day following Lawrence Capps’ promotion to Knightdale police chief.
Gant’s letter stated he was changing course and would “work toward different endeavors.”
Town officials did not fulfill a Jan. 7 public records request from the Eastern Wake News for a copy of Gant’s termination letter. State law requires that a public employee be provided with a written explanation detailing the reasons for his or her termination. The law also says that letter is a public record.
Administrative Services Director Suzanne Yeatts said a termination or resignation letter did not exist because a “termination could be overturned and a resignation accepted.” On Jan. 21, the town provided the newspaper with a copy of Gant’s resignation letter, which was dated Dec. 29, 2014, the same day as his termination.
Kempinski, who had been with the department for more than 10 years, said that the reason that he left was due to frustrations with leadership, including what he claimed were double standards in time management or personal use of police vehicles.
“They (Lawrence Capps and former chief Jason Godwin) don’t practice what they preach,” he said. “They aren’t leading by example.”
Lawrence Capps said he “appreciated” the time Kempinski spent at the department and expressed regret over the former officer’s feelings about leadership. He declined to respond to Kempinski’s specific concerns.
Each of the four officers had been promoted during their tenure at the department. Soto, Capps and Gant had never been suspended or demoted.
The department’s turnover rate has jumped significantly during Capps’ short tenure as chief.
Under Jason Godwin, police chief from June 2012 until October 2014, four employees resigned and two were fired.
Shawn Brown, the chief from February 2009 until April 2012 had one less employee but only one resignation and one dismissal during the last two years of his tenure. It’s unclear how many others left the department during the first two years of Brown’s tenure as chief.
Despite the rise in officer departures, town leaders say they aren’t concerned that there are issues between officers and the department leadership.
Knightdale Town Manager Seth Lawless said he has “full faith and confidence” in the current chief and department.
Chief Capps and Lawless agreed that all four officers who left recently departed under unique circumstances.
“The recent departures are not a cause for concern at all,” Capps said in an official statement. “The vacancies created by their departure now provides us with an opportunity to hire and promote great people who will carry on a passion for serving and protecting the Town of Knightdale.”
Chief Capps emphasized that the department had reached out to keep Soto and Charles Capps on board at the department. The positions vacated by Soto, Charles Capps, Gant and Kempinski have all been filled.
After internal promotions and two new hires, three positions remain open.