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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Warren Turner Wins Wrongful Termination Lawsuit! Re-Hired! Next: His Council Seat?

Former Charlotte Councilman Warren Turner reinstated to state probation job

Former Charlotte City Council member Warren Turner, fired in July 2010 from his job as a state probation officer, has been reinstated.

Turner began working again with the state probation office earlier this month as a judicial services coordinator in Gaston County.

Pamela Walker, the N.C. Department of Public Safety's deputy director of communications, told the Observer in a prepared statement Friday that Turner had been reinstated after the N.C. Department of Correction reviewed the appeal of his firing.

"After careful consideration of the issues raised by both Mr. Turner and the DOC, the parties have reached a mutual settlement agreement," Walker said in the statement. "The department reviewed Mr. Turner's level of career experience and agrees to his reinstatement."

The settlement agreement calls for Turner to receive back pay between the time of his firing and reinstatement. The state also will pay $10,000 to Turner's legal counsel to cover the cost of his appeal.

Walker said the settlement that led to Turner's reinstatement was reached before the appeal came before the N.C. Office of Administrative Hearings.

She also said Turner's annual salary of $41,451 is the same pay he received as a probation officer.

Judicial services coordinators are responsible for the intake of new probation cases, preparing pre-sentence reports and conducting initial risk-needs assessments.

Turner, 47, could not be reached for comment Friday. His attorney, Eric Montgomery, declined comment.

Montgomery said in 2010 that Turner would appeal his firing. He said the reasons listed by the DOC in the letter to Turner were "procedural BS."

Montgomery said the DOC decided it wanted to fire Turner and then looked for a way to do it.

Turner and his attorney have repeatedly said Turner didn't do anything wrong.

Turner, after eight years on the City Council, lost his bid for re-election in 2011. His last term was marred by accusations of sexual harassment.

A city investigation in 2010 found Turner had made sexually inappropriate comments to at least five female staff members. Turner denied the allegations. The City Council declined to censure him.

Turner was fired from his probation officer job for missing meetings or drug screenings with at least 14 probationers, according to a termination letter released by the DOC.

The DOC said Turner falsified at least one record of a home visit with a probationer. The agency also said Turner reported visiting with probationers on days that he was on leave or wasn't scheduled to work.

Turner also had been told not to conduct city business on state time, but then spent hours on his city-issued cellphone conducting city business during state work hours, according to the DOC. His actions, the agency said, were a "blatant disregard" of the earlier warning.

The DOC said it didn't find any evidence that Turner had made sexually inappropriate comments or harassed female probationers.

The Observer reported that in 2009 Mecklenburg County officials told Charlotte City Manager Curt Walton that they believed Turner had misrepresented himself as a county building inspector.

A woman told the Observer that Turner visited a construction site on South Tryon Street and showed his gun to laborers working there. She said he told them he was a building inspector and threatened to put them in jail if they didn't stop working on the house.

After the report, the DOC moved Turner to a desk job and took away his state-issued gun and car pending an investigation. The termination letter didn't address the allegation that Turner showed the laborers a gun.

Turner began his new job as judicial services coordinator Feb. 6. Coordinators do not carry weapons.

Turner has said repeatedly that he did nothing wrong.

Turner, a Democrat, had been a probation officer for 20 years. He was first elected to the City Council in 2003.

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Sources: McClatchy Newspapers, WCNC, Youtube, Google Maps

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