Probation jobs reshuffled

State probation officials have dismantled the leadership in the Durham and Wake probation offices as they wrap up a sweeping internal investigation ordered after the killings of two local university students this year.

The top three managers in Wake County and the top two in Durham left their positions in a series of personnel moves that included transfers, a retirement and a demotion.

Mismanagement of both offices came to light after the arrests of probationers Demario Atwater, 22, and Laurence Lovette Jr., 17, both of whom were charged with first-degree murder in connection with the March kidnapping and shooting death of UNC-Chapel Hill student body president Eve Carson. Lovette is also one of several suspects named in the January killing of Duke University graduate student Abhijit Mahato.

Robert Guy, the head of the Division of Community Corrections, said he hopes to have new management teams in place at both offices within two weeks, coinciding with the conclusion of an internal investigation. But bringing in new management is just one component of the overhaul, Guy said.

"It's going to be some time before we can just walk away," Guy said. "That's just the tip of the iceberg."

In the weeks after Carson's killing, Guy said he was shocked to find out that Lovette had gone nearly two months without ever meeting his probation officers, while Atwater's case was passed on to 10 different officers, and he went more than a year without hearing from any probation officers, despite racking up an additional gun conviction. Two officers assigned to Atwater resigned, as did Lovette's probation officer.

But a series of e-mail messages and documents from probation officials showed problems in Wake and Durham that should have been on the radar of both Guy and other top managers. These records showed that crises regularly erupted in both offices because of high staff turnover and heavy caseloads that left some offenders with little or no supervision.

While changes have come to Wake and Durham, the upper branches of the probation department have not been as rattled, with the exception of David McDuffie, the second in command of the 21-county judicial division that includes Wake and Durham. McDuffie's September retirement comes after 30 years in the department.

The state probation system, part of the N.C. Department of Correction, was promised $2.5 million from the General Assembly that will be available after an audit conducted by the federal justice department's National Institute of Corrections is finished. That report should be complete by mid- to late August, said Tom Beauclair, the institute's Washington-based deputy director.

The now-dismantled management teams haven't been in place since April, when Guy transferred members to offices around the state while the internal investigation began.

In Wake, the former judicial district manager, W. Doug Pardue, a 32-year veteran of the department, was reassigned from his job of overseeing the staff of 155 positions to a job in the Department of Correction's prison division. In his new job, Pardue will supervise inmate apprenticeship programs and will help start a barber school in the Harnett Correction Institute.

Former Durham judicial district manager Geoffrey Hathaway, who has spent 26 years with the probation department, took a voluntary demotion as head of the 89-person Durham office to become a chief probation officer in Orange County, where he'll be the direct supervisor for less than a dozen probation officers. Both men are still receiving the same salaries -- $78,171 for Pardue and $62,366 for Hathaway.

"They continued to not pay attention to details, and that's why they've been removed," Guy said.

In addition, Wake lost both of its assistant judicial managers, while Durham lost one. In Wake, Lawrence Lindsey retired, while Tony Taylor was transferred to the same position in Durham County.

Former Durham assistant judicial manager Theron Z. Dennis was sent to the same position in Johnston county.

Durham County will receive an additional assistant judicial manager, Guy said.

Guy said he couldn't comment on specific personnel actions, but said that not all the changes came as results of disciplinary actions.

"Sometimes we just need new eyes and ears," Guy said.

The criminal charges of murder that Atwater and Lovette face are still pending, and no trial dates have been set.

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