AP NEWS

Wake sheriff sits down with community groups concerned about his personnel moves

January 25, 2019

A week after Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker defended promoting a supervisor who made disparaging comments against gays and Muslims, the sheriff met Thursday with some community groups to discuss his moves.

“We’ve had some concerns, and we just feel like this meeting is basically about clarity, understanding and moving forward,” said Diana Powell, executive director of Justice Served NC.

Justice Served and Forever Fathers were among the advocacy groups that attended Thursday’s meeting. The groups supported Baker’s campaign last fall, when he unseated longtime Sheriff Donnie Harrison, but they promised to hold him accountable.

“We’re trying to represent the whole community. It’s not a black and white issue. It’s not gay, lesbian or straight. It’s about human nature, human beings. Everybody should be treated fairly,” Powell said, adding that the meeting focused on improving jail programs, school safety and addressing gun violence.

A spokesman for Baker said a separate meeting is being planned with LGBT groups.

WRAL Investigates reported recently that Baker had promoted Teddy Patrick to captain, one of the highest-ranking members of his administration.

Harrison demoted Patrick from lieutenant to senior investigator two years ago after he admitted making homophobic comments during “sensitivity training” sessions. He even outed a gay deputy during one session.

Patrick filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming his demotion was racially motivated. But the EEOC denied the complaint, stating in its findings that he also made disparaging comments against Muslims.

Two master deputies who provided information about Patrick’s comments to supervisors investigating the incident were fired by Baker in December, moves they call unfair and retaliatory.

“I have not retaliated against anyone – no person – period,” Baker said during a news conference last week. “They were terminated because I didn’t have the confidence in them to follow and implement my policies moving forward.”

He called the WRAL Investigates report inaccurate but offered no evidence to refute it.

Sheriffs have broad legal authority to hire and fire as they see fit, and Baker said Harrison made similar moves during his 16 years in office.

He has promoted at least three gay employees in the sheriff’s office during the transition, including the deputy who was outed during the 2017 training session.