Norlina police chief keeps job

Aug. 06, 2014 @ 05:56 AM

NORLINA — The Norlina police chief is still on the job.

No action Monday night by the town's board of commissioners ended weeks of uncertainty about the future of Chief Bobby Braxton and left his supporters cheering.

News that Braxton, the police chief for two years in this town of about 1,100, would be fired or asked to resign spread after an apparent improperly called meeting of the board on July 21.

According to The Warren Record, a weekly newspaper published in Warren County, the public was not notified of the meeting. Minutes of that meeting show that the board met in closed session about a personnel matter, that the town attorney was out of town and that no action was taken.

Commissioners, facing a barrage from Braxton's supporters at their regular monthly meeting Monday night, didn't comment on the earlier meeting or its aftermath.

"Chief Braxton is a good man," Claude O'Hagan said.

O'Hagan, a resident of Ridgeway who owns property in Norlina, said the commissioners should remember times when they assumed new roles and "had to learn ... what everybody expects of you."

He asked the commissioners to dismiss complaints they have about Braxton if the community is satisfied with him and that they shouldn't micro-manage his job.

A lifelong resident of Norlina and a former town employee, Earl Closson described Braxton as a quiet man and that he is glad to "see officers in the neighborhood talking to citizens."

Another resident, Frank Bullock, said he moved to the town in 1994 and not until Braxton became chief did he see officers as many as three times a day in his neighborhood.

James Thomas said other speakers had expressed his sentiments and warned the board that he would "speak my mind when voting time comes."

The most impassioned comments came from Braxton's wife, Candace.

He didn't do anything that would result in dismissal, she said. Rumors and questions about his integrity were the result of what she called “direct and shameful" action by the board. She said she expects a public apology and that the response of residents "shows how out of touch you are."

The board followed the comments with a 15-minute closed session on a personnel matter. Returning to the open meeting, Mayor Dwight Pearce said, "No action was taken."

But pressed by residents for what his comment meant, Pearce said, "You can assume he is still the police chief."

After further insistence for a meaning, the mayor said, "Bobby Braxton is the police chief of Norlina."

Pearce, after consulting with the board's attorney, Robby May, said he had no comment, leaving unanswered questions about whether there would be a meeting with Braxton to clear the air and how much public pressure the board felt.

Braxton declined to comment on the matter, saying only during a routine department-report segment of monthly board meetings that his department would continue to "function professionally."

Braxton became assistant chief in Norlina in October 2011 and was promoted to lead the three-man department in July 2012. He had earlier been employed in law enforcement in both Warren and Pitt counties.

 

Contact the writer at news@hendersondispatch.com.