The local chapter of the NAACP believes the firing of Hubert Sealey, a Robeson County commissioner, by the Highway Patrol was “racist,” arguing that another trooper, who was white, suffered a lesser punishment for basically the same transgressions — conducting private business while on the public clock.
If the local chapter’s argument is that the white trooper should have been fired as well, then it might have a point. We have a letter, supposedly from “Troop F” of the Highway Patrol, that gives some of the details of the white officer’s alleged offenses, but we don’t know if the story is true or fully told — and there is little reason to believe the letter is authentic, as there were no names or contact numbers attached. Without additional information, including whether or not the offense was the trooper’s first, it’s difficult to make a judgment.
There is less mystery about Sealey’s offenses, which were detailed in nine pages of documents the Highway Patrol had no choice but to release last week once Sealey’s appeals process was exhausted. If the local NAACP chapter’s position is that Sealey should have received five days off without pay, as did the white officer, then the chapter is simply wrong. Sealey did in fact receive a reprimand, when it was first discovered that he was not only conducting private business while in uniform, but was also using his cell phone to fulfill his duties as a Robeson County commissioner. That happened in 2009 and afterward, according to the patrol, Sealey signed a note saying that he would no longer carry with him to work a cell phone provided by Robeson County for his work as a commissioner.
The patrol says that Sealey continued to carry the cell phone, and when he was confronted about his association with a private business, he lied to investigators. In the end, the patrol said Sealey was dismissed for four reasons — lying, insubordination, neglect of duty, and violating rules about secondary employment.
Sealey was one of two troopers recently dismissed for conducting private business on the patrol’s time, and a third was forced into early retirement. Like Sealey, the other two are black, so it’s expected that the NAACP would look with a suspicious mind. But once it became plain, in Sealey’s case at least, that his transgression was not a first strike, then it should be clear that the punishment was appropriate.
This can’t end without the mention that Sealey was a law enforcement officer, and that he should be held to a higher standard. Once evidence was compelling that he was not only violating the patrol’s policy, but was lying to cover his footprints, he was compromised — and had forfeited the privilege of wearing the patrol’s uniform.
It will be left to the voters in this county’s commissioner District 2 to determine if Sealey has an additional price to pay.