A former director of the state Alcohol Law Enforcement division can pursue a legal challenge to his firing on the ground that his dismissal was politically motivated, a judge ruled Friday.
An order by Administrative Law Judge Fred Morrison Jr. denied the state’s motion to dismiss John Ledford’s claim that he was fired because he was a Democrat and Gov. Pat McCrory’s new administration was Republican.
Morrison granted the state’s motion to dismiss the claim on a separate ground: Because Ledford was not a career state employee, his claim that he was fired without just cause cannot be heard by an administrative law judge. But the ruling means the question of whether Ledford was fired because of his political affiliation will continue to be litigated.
The state Department of Public Safety says it fired Ledford in April because, prior to the new administration in January, he demoted himself to the rank of agent, took a 41 percent pay cut and assigned himself to the Asheville area, where he comes from.
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The department said he exceeded his authority, the job was never posted for other applicants, and he proposed a salary that would have made him the highest paid ALE agent in the state.