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Appeal Court: Firing Of NC Worker Running For Office Upheld

Officials acted properly when they fired a North Carolina probation and parole officer who had been accused of campaigning for elected office while on community service leave and other misconduct, the state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

The three-judge panel upheld the decision of an administrative law judge who determined just cause existed for the state Department of Public Safety to dismiss Eric Erickson, who ran unsuccessfully for Charlotte City Council in 2017. He was also found to have sought special treatment for his personal vehicle.

According to the opinion, evidence shows Erickson used community service leave in September 2017 to campaign and run errands. Erickson was granted leave for volunteering at the local elections board, but state personnel policy says that leave may be used to work at a polling site to help people vote.

An auto inspection garage owner said that Erickson, on a leave day, asked if he could place his campaign yard sign outside of the business, and attempted to get a law enforcement exemption for window tinting on his personal vehicle by suggesting it was used for undercover work. Erickson's supervisors also testified that he had failed to report his secondary work with a security firm.

Erickson appealed his firing. He questioned whether the judge improperly allowed hearsay evidence and whether there was enough evidence to warrant the firing.

Court of Appeals Judge Jeff Carpenter, writing the unanimous opinion, rejected the hearsay argument, saying such challenges must be made at the time the evidence is presented.

The panel said there was “substantial evidence” to support the administrative law judge's findings and final decision, Carpenter said. The window-tinting request and failure to report secondary employment “were acts and omissions reflecting upon petitioner’s integrity and honesty," he wrote, and the evidence showed the community service leave was used “for improper campaigning purposes.”

Erickson finished third out of four candidates in the 2017 Democratic primary for a council seat, according to election results.

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