Town manager and attorney interviewing private investigators
by Saja Hindi
A private investigator will look into the complaints against Stallings Police Chief Michael Dummett. The town council voted unanimously Monday, Feb. 13, authorizing town manager Brian Matthews to make the hire.
Matthews placed Chief Dummett on administrative leave Sunday, Feb. 5, because the town’s personnel policy requires an investigation into any complaint. Several employees within the police department complained. As a personnel matter, the specifics of the complaints have not been released. For purposes of an investigation, the town can hire an outside firm to report on the alleged issues.
During the public comments portion of the meeting, resident Larry Falcone, who ran for election for town council this past fall, spoke to the council and other residents in attendance. Falcone said “the opposition” had spread rumors during the campaign that he and Ira Bostic were trying to get rid of Dummett and the police department.
“We assured Chief Dummett at that time that the rumor was completely false,” Falcone said. “In fact, we overwhelmingly supported Chief Dummett and the Stallings police force to the point that I made it part of my campaigning that by having such a chief as Chief Dummett – who had transformed the department into a more disciplined force in the short time he had been there – that it gave Stallings a distinctive edge when it came to recruiting more businesses to relocate,” Falcone said.
Falcone said when he and his wife saw on TV that Dummett had been placed on leave, he was very surprised, and his phone calls the next day seemed to be in the dark about the issue, aside from hearing complaints about accusations against Dummett for creating a hostile work environment.
“The problem is that before Chief Dummett came on board, there was no discipline, and the lack of control by his predecessors created an environment that made the police force almost laughable, catering more to the ‘good old boy’ network, instead of following tried and proven police procedures,” Falcone said.
According to Falcone, something seems missing from the story, especially because Dummett was placed immediately on administrative leave.
“The whole charade smells of a political stacked deck scheme to get rid of Mr. Dummett, and once again let the ‘good old boy’ network run our police force again,” he said.
Falcone implored the council not to disappoint the citizens of Stallings who voted the members in and to continue supporting Dummett.
After the council members entered a closed session discussion about the personnel issue, councilman Harry Stokes made a motion that the town manager hire an outside source to conduct a private investigation of the matter, with a cap of $40,000, which received unanimous approval.
Matthews said Tuesday morning that he and the attorney were interviewing potential candidates and firms to conduct the investigation.
“I’m hoping that all the facts will come to light and that it will be enough information for the town council and myself to make an informed decision on this issue,” Matthews said. “We need to substantiate whether the complaints are valid or invalid.”
Depending on how thorough the investigation is, it could take from a range to two to four weeks, Matthews said, and could cost the cap of $40,000.
“We want to keep it below that, but it depends on how far the investigation has to go really,” he said.