posted on January 13, 2014 14:57
John Ledford, from up in the mountains, was a leader in local Democratic politics for years, then ran for sheriff of Madison County and won. Then, after a few years as sheriff, he got Democratic Governor Beverly Perdue to appoint him head of the Division of Alcohol and Law Enforcement, a job where he earned $110,000 a year.
Then Republican Pat McCrory was elected Governor and, since Ledford was a political appointee, it was clear to just about everyone else his days as head of A.L.E. were numbered.
So John Ledford pulled a hat trick – and he demoted himself into a job as a career state employee. Where he couldn’t be fired.
Of course, it wasn’t quite as simple as it sounds.
First, the job Ledford wanted to demote himself into was in Wilmington - while he lived on the other side of the state in Asheville. And the job only paid $39,000.
But Ledford found a simple solution: Before he resigned as head of A.L.E. he recommended to the higher-ups in the Perdue Administration (who were also political appointees) that they move the job from Wilmington to Asheville and raise the salary to $65,800 – which his fellow Democrats happily did.
Of course, none of that set too well with the Republicans after they took office.
They more or less decided the whole thing was a scam. And fired Ledford. Who then sued and said with a straight face he was a career state employee who couldn’t be fired.
Then Ledford hired a lawyer, headed to court, and, in an odd twist of fate, landed in front of a judge who, by sheer coincidence, had been former Democratic Governor Bob Scott’s legal advisor.
The judge declared Ledford had been “a marked man, politically” after the election of a Republican Governor, added he’d been fired because he was a Democrat, and ordered the state to reinstate him, pay him $44,000 in back pay, and pay his lawyer another $50,000.
And that’s Democracy in Action: A Democratic nabob waves a magic wand and declares himself a career employee; the Republicans say that’s not magic it’s voodoo; and a judge (who worked for a Democratic Governor forty years ago) rules taxpayers have to fork over $94,000 so justice can be done.