ONLY ON 3: As new mayor opens door to public, Leland issues still unresolved
LELAND, NC (WWAY) — For month’s we’ve been looking at issues in Leland, especially with the town’s police department. Among the biggest was something that happened last winter. Ofc. Sherry Lewis says she was shot in the crotch multiple times by her fellow officers with simulation ammunition in a training exercise. Since then, Lewis and the town of Leland reached a $25,000 settlement, but no one was ever disciplined for shooting her.
It’s a story that sounds eerily similar to an incident involving the East Spencer Fire Department. The town’s chief and his assistant are out after investigators say they used a Taser to repeatedly shock an 18-year-old junior firefighter at a Christmas party.
Part-time Chief Shane Cranfield was fired and Assistant Chief and volunteer firefighter Allen Carlyle have been charged with misdemeanor assault.
Town Administrator Macon Sammons’s letter dismissing Cranfield says one of the main reasons he made the decision is because the incident embarrassed the community.
“It was totally and entirely inappropriate and uncalled for,” Sammons said. “It should never have happened, and it forced our hand. We had to act.”
As questions about the handling of the Lewis situation continue to swirl in Leland, the town’s new mayor is opening her doors to the public. It’s a chance for residents to have their voices heard on any number of issues.
“I’ve always told everyone any time you want to talk, come to me,” Mayor Brenda Bozeman said.
Bozeman inherited a town plagued by issues within its police department. Among the problems are the allegations involving Lewis, reports Police Chief Tim Jayne punched an officer during a Myrtle Beach bachelor party and claims an officer pulled a gun on another officer.
Now Bozeman is opening her doors to the public on Tuesdays and Thursdays knowing many will want to talk about Leland PD.
“I do expect it,” Bozeman said. “I’ve had e-mails saying that they wanted to talk to me about it, and that’s fine. Of course, there’s not a whole lot I can tell them until the SBI agent gets through with his case.”
Town residents say that the open door is a step in the right direction.
“I think it’s a very good thing. I think people have got to be able to voice their opinions,” Leland resident Joan Pannullo said. “We’ve been shut out. They close all theses sessions, and I think it’s wrong.”
The biggest difference between the incidents in Leland and East Spencer is that little to nothing has been done about the allegations in Leland.
“They’re saying they have the proof here,” Bozeman said of East Spencer. “What we have, we have different stories from different officers, and that was one other reason for calling in the SBI. We’ve got to find out the truth, and hopefully they can see who’s telling the truth and who’s not.”
Unlike in East Spencer, there has not been any disciplinary action taken yet in Leland. Bozeman says despite not having any answers the alleged incidents have already done their fair share of damage to the town.
“I don’t like it no more than anyone else does, but you hear a lot of ‘You need to fire, you need to fire.” Well, you can’t fire on accusations, you’ve got to have proof,” Bozeman said.
Bozeman will hold open office hours Tuesdays from 1 to 5 p.m. and Thursdays from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Residents can also make an appointment to see her.
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