A former Laurinburg police officer’s lawsuit against the city related to his firing in 2007 has reached a fourth round of mediation Laurinburg City Manager Ed Burchins said Friday.
George Thomas “Tommy” Wright Jr. was set to become chief of the Laurinburg Police Department in 2007 until he was terminated because of alleged criminal misconduct.
In Wright’s suit, he alleges that he was wrongfully terminated based on meritless accusations that he paid for sex, calling the ordeal humiliating.
Wright is suing the city for paid back wages and claims that the firing ruined his reputation, making it difficult for him to find employment. Wright could not be reached for comment.
A three-year investigation into Wright’s misconduct resulted in no prosecution by Scotland County District Attorney Kristy Newton.
Newton agreed this week with an earlier assessment that there was “insufficient evidence” to warrant the filing of charges for felony offences and, while there was “sufficient evidence to support some misdemeanor offences,” the statute of limitations had expired by the time of the investigation.
Burchins, who was not in office at the time of the termination, as well as former City Manager Craig Honeycutt, who now occupies the same role in Alamance County, were named in the suit.
The suit is currently being mediated between Wright’s representation and what Burchins called “a team of attorneys” from the city’s professional liability insurance provider.
Mediation began approximately six months ago, and will enter “another phase” due to both sides’ inability to reach an agreement, said Burchins.
According to the suit, Wright, a 22-year veteran of the Laurinburg Police Department, was nearly sworn in as chief before being asked not to accept the position by Honeycutt.
Wright was told that he should not accept the position as an investigation had been initiated by Newton into Wright’s activities.
The State Bureau of Investigation proceeded to interview Wright, along with others involved in the case and in March of 2007 Wright was placed on leave with pay.
In September of that same year Wright said that Honeycutt let him know that he was being fired due to “substantial evidence” of his criminal activity.
In the suit Wright claims that he was never told about the nature of the allegations against him nor was he told why, after more than three years, no charges were filed.
Along with the wrongful discharge claim, Wright is also accusing the city of denying him his right to due process, defamation of character and intentionally inflicted emotional distress.
Former Laurinburg Mayor Ann Slaughter, now deceased, said at the time that “charges seemed like they were going to be filed immediately,” which led to Wright’s precipitous dismissal.
“It was a very unfortunate incident,” Slaughter said, adding that “it sounds like it probably ruined his life.”
Slaughter went on to say that the city “didn’t have a choice” as they were told that charges were imminent.