On the heels of Bill Hogan’s abrupt retirement, Asheville has named Capt. Wade Wood, a veteran department administrator, as interim police chief. The city announced Wood’s appointment May 5.
In an April 18 announcement, it was revealed that Hogan would be stepping down, effective May 13.
“After 36 years in law enforcement, I am looking forward to retirement and a new chapter in my life. I strongly value public service, and I am grateful to have spent a career serving the law-enforcement profession,” Hogan said in the official announcement. “It has been an honor to serve with the professional and dedicated men and women of the Asheville Police Department. I have the utmost confidence in the level of service they will continue to provide to the citizens of Asheville.”
The announcement praised Hogan for bringing a new level of professionalism to the department and for playing a role in keeping Asheville's crime rate low.
But what the press release didn’t mention was the cloud of controversy under which Hogan resigned. Just two weeks earlier, the State Bureau of Investigation sealed the APD evidence room after it was discovered that drugs were missing. District Attorney Ron Moore publicly blasted Hogan and the APD leadership for failing to keep his office adequately informed about the problems. A partial audit of the evidence room conducted in March had revealed a muddled record-keeping system, 115 missing items (including guns, drugs and money) and bags of marijuana held for so long that the packaging had begun to deteriorate (see “Missing in Action,” April 20 Xpress).
Matters reached a boiling point when, during the April 12 City Council meeting, Moore repeated his criticisms to Council. Mayor Terry Bellamy vowed, “Changes should be made and will be made,” though she didn't specify what form they might take.
Other troubles too
But the controversy didn’t stop at the evidence room door. During the same Council meeting, the city attorney announced the settlement of a sexual harassment suit filed by former APD Officer Cherie Byrd. The lawsuit concerned explicit and racially offensive text messages sent to her by her then superior, Sgt. Eric Lauffer (see “Yes But No,” July 7, 2010 Xpress). Attorneys for both Lauffer and the city admitted that he’d sent the texts.
Nonetheless — and despite the $52,100 the settlement cost the city — Lauffer still works for the APD, though he’s been demoted, and this news prompted further public criticism of Hogan. The city hired Hogan (who’d served prior stints as police chief in Rocky Mount, N.C., and Wilmington, Del.) in 2004 after Will Annarino retired.
“We wish Bill well in his retirement and appreciate his service to the city of Asheville,” City Manager Gary Jackson said in the April 18 official announcement. But when asked whether Hogan had been forced to retire and what role, if any, Jackson (Hogan’s direct superior) had played in the decision, city officials have declined to go beyond what the official announcement said.
The announcement of Wood's appointment likewise makes no mention of the controversy he’s inheriting.
“It is a great honor to represent the APD as interim chief,” Wood is quoted as saying. “I look forward to working closely with the professional and dedicated men and women serving the city of Asheville and will take every opportunity to lead the department toward continuous improvement.”
Jackson, meanwhile, asserts in the announcement, “We are fortunate to have someone with such a strong and proven track record in police administration ready to take the helm.” The press release cites Wood’s 19-year tenure with the APD, including stints as commander of the Support and Criminal Investigations divisions, as well as a community-policing award and departmental Purple Heart.
Jackson had originally said he planned to name an interim chief before the end of April. But the city manager and his staff wanted to meet individually with all four captains and 14 lieutenants before making the decision.
Of course, “interim” implies that another chief may be on the way. In the April 18 announcement, Jackson promised a nationwide “competitive search,” assuring a skeptical city that it will include “an opportunity for community input.”
— David Forbes can be reached at 251-1333, ext. 137, or email@example.com.