Under the Dome

DMV officer accused of conflict in audit is on leave

A law enforcement officer at the Division of Motor Vehicles who recently faced conflict-of-interest allegations is on administrative leave, but the state is withholding additional detail.

Neither the DMV nor the State Office of Personnel would clarify whether Wes Little’s leave is connected to an audit report in late January that concluded that an officer, not identified by name, had conducted side business with automobile dealerships he regulates for the state.

DMV spokeswoman Marge Howell said last week that the employee, whom she also would not identify, was undergoing disciplinary action that probably would end by last Friday.

By Wednesday evening, Howell had not responded to requests for updates. State Personnel Office spokesman David Prickett confirmed that Little was on administrative leave but said he could not provide further information.

Little is the son of 2004 Republican gubernatorial candidate George Little, who remains active in state politics.

The audit report, from the office of State Auditor Beth Wood, followed a tipster’s complaint that a DMV employee sold fire extinguishers to auto dealerships over which he had state authority.

That authority included enforcement of motor vehicle laws, safety and emission inspections, special investigations, auditing and licensing, according to the report, leaving the officer in a position to influence fire extinguisher sales unethically. He should have disclosed that business interest, the report said.

While the report did not name Wes Little — auditor’s reports typically don’t name individuals they focus on — an information trail led to his identity. The report mentioned the employee’s tie to the Southern Pines Fire and Rescue Department, where Wes Little is a volunteer, and said the fire extinguisher business was registered to his wife. Little Fire Extinguisher Sales and Service of Southern Pines is registered to Teresa Little.

The address listed for the business and Wes Little’s voter registration are the same.

A call placed to Wes and Teresa Little was not returned.

Wes Little was demoted in October 2015 because of “personal conduct,” according to The News & Observer’s state employee database. The Insider did not receive responses to requests for clarification about the demotion, which included a pay cut.