MOORESVILLE – Chief Damon Williams and one of his captains have been placed on administrative leave following initial findings of an investigation into the Mooresville Police Department.
Interim Town Manager Ryan Rase made the moves Monday after outside consultant U.S. ISS Agency of Huntersville conducted dozens of interviews in a probe of claims that officers and employees at the police department were subject to a hostile work environment.
Capt. David Call, supervisor of MPD’s Criminal Investigations Division, also was put on administrative leave with pay, town spokeswoman Kim Sellers said.
The investigation and Rase’s actions come at a difficult time for the police department and a period of transition for the town’s executive leadership.
MPD, and the community, continue to deal with the fatal shooting May 4 of Officer Jordan Sheldon during a traffic stop.
At town hall, two days before issuing a Feb. 27 memo informing commissioners of the internal probe of the police department, Town Manager David Treme, who was under contract until August 2020, announced that he would retire more than a year earlier.
Treme then informed commissioners that he would be unable to work for two weeks because of medical issues. On March 1, the board appointed Rase as interim town manager, and he has remained in the role since.
In May, Deputy Town Manager Angel Wright-Lanier left to become assistant city manager in Fayetteville after four years in Mooresville.
Chief also was looking
As the probe of his department began, Williams was a candidate for the top job at the Rocky Mount Police Department in what became a controversial search with racial overtones.
Williams came to Mooresville in 2016 after serving as police chief in Tarboro, which is just east Rocky Mount, in eastern North Carolina.
After a months-long search that included $20,000 in work by an outside firm, City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney in December reopened the hiring process, the Rocky Mount Telegram reported.
Williams, the paper reported, was one of the candidates considered for the Rocky Mount post in the initial search.
Former Rocky Mount Interim Police Chief Willie Williams, part of a panel that advised Small-Toney on the search, called Williams an “excellent candidate,” the Telegram reported.
The search committee recommended Rocky Mount Police Capt. Marty Clay for the chief’s position before the city manager restarted the search, according to the paper.
“Damon Williams is black,” the Telegram reported. “His unsuccessful bid adds to whispers at City Hall that Small-Toney had already made her choice when she hired the consulting firm, convened the assessor panels and held community input sessions last summer.”
Small-Toney is black. Clay is white.
In March, Small-Toney hired George Robinson, who had been serving in an interim role since January, as chief. Robinson is black.
No 'suspicion of criminal activity'
Sellers, the Mooresville spokeswoman, stressed that the internal MPD probe was focused on the operations of the police department itself.
“This action is solely a personnel matter and was not based on any allegation or suspicion of criminal activity,” Sellers said.
Rase did not respond to a phone call from the Mooresville Citizen, and Sellers said the town could not comment further on the investigation.
“As you know, we cannot comment on personnel matters or an active investigation,” she said in an email.