The arrival of new leadership at the State Bureau of Investigation has brought changes in the highest ranks of the agency.
Two of the SBI’s four assistant directors, who together oversaw the bureau’s most important investigations, were moved to other duties last Monday. On Thursday, the agency announced how their duties would be carried out.
The move is a second major shift for the agency this year. In August, with Gov. Pat McCrory’s signature, the Department of Public Safety took control of the SBI from Attorney General Roy Cooper. Democrats derided the move as a power grab by the governor’s office, while McCrory said it would give the agency more independence.
SBI spokeswoman Teresa West insisted that the personnel moves were not demotions, but the former assistant directors will oversee far fewer agents and have narrower responsibilities in their new roles.
One of the reassigned agents, Eric Hooks, previously headed the Professional Standards Division, which looked into accusations of impropriety by both SBI employees and state officials, including elected officials.
Hooks now will handle threats against public officials and crimes involving state property, a part of his former job. The state typically sees about 2,500 such crimes a year, according to the Department of Public Safety.
“I don’t know that you would call it a demotion,” West said. “It’s just expanding that concentration on those particular areas.”
The bureau has eliminated Hooks’ former assistant director position, leaving “investigations related to professional standards and public corruption cases” under the supervision of Director B.W. Collier and Deputy Director Van Shaw.
“This realignment will increase efficiencies in upper management and administrative support, while maintaining critical field operations,” the Department of Public Safety said in a release attributed to Collier.
The other former assistant director, Greg Tart, was transferred from his position atop the Field Operations Division to the case-records management section, a sub-unit of another division that he will now lead. Tart will be responsible for launching a new electronic case-records portal, according to the SBI.
Tart’s replacement as head of field operations is Janie Pinkston Sutton, who will oversee agents that provide investigative help to law agencies across the state.
Sutton was most recently the special agent in charge of the state’s Southeastern District and has worked for the bureau since 1991. She served earlier as field training coordinator and crisis negotiation team leader for the bureau.
Salaries for Hooks and Tart were reduced from $97,283 to $92,500, according to the department.