Pender Co. released information regarding sheriff's demotion

Reported by Lynda Figueredo - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

PENDER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - The Pender County Sheriff's Office released some information regarding the demotion of a sheriff's deputy who took part in rescuing malnourished animals in Hampstead.

Deputy Michael Lewis called the Topsail Humane Society to help him remove several malnourished horses and dogs, when he said the county's animal control department didn't respond to complaints.

Animal control, however, argues they were unaware of the number of malnourished animals.  They say they did received a complaint regarding three horses, but after checking the animals the department felt there wasn't enough evidence to seize them.

The Pender County Sheriff's Office demoted Lewis from sergeant to regular deputy for insubordination, reportedly because he was told to let animal control handle the situation.

Pender County Sheriff Carson Smith released a written statement Monday about why Lewis was demoted from sergeant to regular duty and suspended for three days.

The statement from the Sheriff says Lewis took several actions that are unusual for his patrol duties and essentially worked on company time, took enforcement action without sufficient training, and did not inform his superiors.

The report also sites Lewis for not contacting animal control when seizing the animals.

"I did contact animal control," said Lewis.

The sheriff said he told Lewis to keep an eye on the animals. The following day Lewis seized and removed the horses, and turned them over to the Topsail Humane Society.

Lewis said he felt he was just upholding the law.

"I regret you know how much controversy and publicity that have come out of this and the steps that were taken to get there," said Lewis.  "I don't regret for the animal sake, because they are being cared and nutritioned back to health."

While Lewis' personnel records are protected under state law, there are provisions for the release of information if it is needed to maintain public confidence.

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