Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker on Thursday publicly disputed media reports that said he retaliated against two deputies and promoted an officer who made disparaging remarks about gay people.
Baker, who was sworn into office last month, said he would not discuss personnel issues “out of respect for those officers.”
But, he said, “I have not retaliated against anyone.”
Former Master Deputies Gray Speight and Steven Williamson said they were fired last month for reporting comments made by Lt. Teddy Patrick during sensitivity training two years ago, WRAL reported.
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The deputies alleged Patrick said he would not enter a house if a man was wearing a dress and that he also outed a fellow deputy who was gay, according to the news station.
Patrick was promoted when Baker became sheriff, WRAL reported.
“There is not an issue in this office concerning that matter,” Baker said Thursday.
The sheriff said Patrick has 19 years of law-enforcement experience “that is of great value to this office and this county.”
The sheriff’s office is dedicated to serving all residents and treating all employees with respect, Baker said. Moreover, he said, his goal is to promote the most qualified employees.
Baker wrestled with his emotions Thursday while surrounded by members of his command staff in the lobby of the Wake County Public Safety Center.
“I am not perfect,” he said, “but citizens on Nov. 6 saw fit to put me in office based on things I campaigned on.”
Among those were ”transparency and inclusiveness for Wake County’s citizens and employees,” Baker added.
The Rev. Clayton Brooks, a local LGBTQ advocate, said during the news conference that he would not speak to the allegations against Baker. But he said the sheriff has agreed to meet with advocates next week.
“You have a right to be concerned,” Brooks said, referring to the notion that some law enforcement officers do not like LGBTQ people.
But Brooks said he hopes the LGBTQ community and the sheriff’s office will build a relationship and work together moving forward.
Baker’s election victory in November came as a surprise to many, as he unseated longtime Republican Sheriff Donnie Harrison. His win reflected a “blue wave” in Wake County, where voters opted for Democratic candidates.
Baker, a 28-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, ran partly on promises to stop coordinating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He received praise from immigration advocacy groups when he announced four days after being sworn into office that he would no longer implement the 287(g) federal program.
He came under fire earlier this week when WRAL first published a story about the firing of two deputies.
On Thursday, Baker said some internal memos the report cited did not originate in the sheriff’s office, and he described WRAL’s report of the sensitivity training sessions as “inaccurate.”