To anyone paying attention to the local news of the south-central Piedmont over the last couple of months, it's beginning to look more and more like another remake of The Dukes of Hazzard is being put together down in the Montgomery County town of Candor, and the roles of Boss Hogg, Sheriff Coltrane, and Deputy Enos Strate seem to have already been cast.
Wayne Holyfield, a N.C. Highway Patrolman, was elected to the Board of Commissioners of the town of Candor last November. After being sworn in on December 12, Holyfield proceeded to call for a closed session of the Board during which he, another newly elected commissioner named Rob Martin, and incumbent commissioner Tim Privett voted 3 to 2 to fire eighty percent of the town's small five officer police force; over the objections of two other commissioners and the Mayor.
Despite repeated requests from local media since then, Holyfield and other town officials have steadfastly refused to discuss the reasons for the firings or to even give the dismissed officers any reason for their actions. By all accounts the officers involved were good at their jobs and had regularly received excellent performance reviews during their time on the job.
Commissioner Holyfield, during the same closed session of the board, made a motion to hire Erik Ray Jackson - a 24 year old former highway patrol officer dismissed for neglect of duty in August, 2011, as chief of police. That motion carried by the same 3 to 2 margin.
It is unclear whether or not any of the other town commissioners knew, at the time, that Jackson had been discharged under less than favorable circumstances from the highway patrol, or that he was also living at Holyfield's residence.
As if these circumstances weren't bad enough, it turns out that both Holyfield and Jackson have legal issues above and beyond the ethical questions all of the above raise.
Highway Patrol spokesman, First Sergeant Jeff Gordon said, "As a result of an earlier inquiry and the sensitive nature of these allegations, Trooper Michael Wayne Holyfield has been placed on Administrative Duty effective Thursday, January 05, 2012 pending further investigation."
What allegations First Sergeant Gordon was referring to is unclear, but Erik Jackson, Holyfield's first choice for police chief, ultimately was not hired. The position was eventually awarded to Mr. Johnny Fulp (who has full slate of legal and health issues of his own yet to work through), but Friday's arrest of Jackson on several counts of voter fraud only serves to further undermine the ethics and credibility of Mr. Holyfield. Mr. Jackson is alleged to have been a legal resident of Lexington, NC when he registered and later voted in Montgomery County's elections last Fall; actions Mr. Jackson should have known were not simply illegal, but serious felonies.
Personally, if I lived in the town of Candor, I think I'd be on the phone to Attorney General Roy Cooper's office several times a day to get to the bottom of the apparent corruption that has somehow infiltrated that southern Piedmont town. There's something very rotten in Montgomery County these days, and it needs to be cleaned up before it spreads any further.
Then again, if you're good with flaming arrows, hot rods, and moonshine, maybe the roles of the Duke boys still need to be cast.