Candor, NC -- You have to ask, who's really in charge in Candor?
News 2 has taken countless phone calls and e-mails from citizens, police officers, and elected officials since town commissioners fired all but one of their five police officers. Reputations and careers are at stake.
At the heart of the controversy is the fact that the Candor town commission fired nearly the entire police department without explanation. On December 12, 2011, four out of five police officers were dismissed, all with clean records.
Since then, News 2 has consistently asked the commissioners for an explanation. The commissioners who voted for the firing have only said they have reason for firing the police officers but aren't going to say what the reason is.
Is that legal?
According to Eric Fink, Professor of Law and Elon University School of Law, the short answer is no.
"When a public employee is fired, the notice of their dismissal and the reasons for their dismissal is a matter of public record and the state statute specifically says that that information is a matter of public record," said Fink.
According to legal statute (NC Gen. Stat., Chapter 160A, sec.168(b)(11)), Candor Commissioners have to issue:
"A copy of the written notice of the final decision of the municipality setting forth the specific acts or omissions that are the basis of the dismissal."
Accountability and transparency is well-rooted in our country's government and as we found out, there are specific laws in place to uphold that.
Fink said government accountability in a small town is sometimes not enforced, but he said it's important to demand it.
"Police employees, public employees are in a sense all of our employees and in a certain sense the public is entitled to know why for example, police officers were fired."
If the commissioners continue to refuse to hand over the dismissal documents, a court order can be issued and they'll have to comply.
A similar case happened in Wilmington, North Carolina in 2003. The North Carolina Superior Court ordered the city of Wilmington to disclose information about the dismissal of a police officer.
News 2 has requested documents from the town of Candor that explain why these firings happened. The town clerk told us she did not have any documentation.
WFMY News 2