State Politics

Fired Capitol Police chief settles with state

The fired interim chief of the Capitol Police and the state have reached a settlement of his lawsuit alleging it was illegal to dismiss him for organizing off-duty work at a violence-prone nightclub.

The state Department of Public Safety last week paid $165,000 to Antonio Asion and his attorney to resolve the case.

“Two separate judges ruled that Mr. Asion was illegally dismissed by DPS (Department of Public Safety),” his attorney, Michael C. Byrne, said Friday. “I think the settlement reflects that. I am pleased DPS ultimately chose to resolve the case.”

Asion was fired in 2013 for setting up a new system of off-duty work for his officers at a Raleigh nightclub that had a reputation for violence. The plan involved setting up a nonprofit entity as a conduit for off-duty security assignments that was poorly managed and opened the agency up to questions of double-dipping and improper use of state vehicles, according to an internal investigation.

Asion hoped the plan would boost officers’ morale in a department whose officers were underpaid and that had seen its budget reduced by half. He patterned it after a similar program he set up when he was a lieutenant with the Delaware State Police.

But the venue, Club B.E.D., had such a history of trouble that Wake County sheriff’s deputies and Raleigh police refused to allow their officers to work there. Kieran Shanahan, who was secretary of the department at the time, upheld a Department of Public Safety administrator’s decision to fire Asion.

Asion contested his firing, and an administrative law judge found that no evidence was presented at his hearing to prove the nightclub had a bad reputation. Even if it did, the judge ruled, that alone shouldn’t prevent law enforcement officers from working there off-duty.

The judge found that Asion, who was new to the job – replacing a chief who died the month after Asion was hired – was put in charge of a dispirited agency, given little direction and didn’t take any of the off-duty money for himself. The judge said the public safety administrator who fired him “had no clue” what was going on in the police force.

In October, a Superior Court judge upheld the administrative law judge’s ruling.

Under the terms of the settlement, Asion’s record will be changed to reflect he resigned, Byrne said. Although the judges ordered him reinstated, he is not returning to the police force.

Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Pamela Walker said the agency agreed to the settlement because it was in the best interest of the state and was the best resolution for all concerned.