COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WECT) - A whistle blower in Columbus County tells our investigators his co-workers are being encouraged to pay up for employee appreciation dinners or risk losing their shot at a future promotion.
We received a letter in the mail from a person identifying themselves as an employee at Tabor Correctional Institution. Their tip prompted us to call the state with questions - and that led to a full blown investigation.
The employee sent us documents indicating that prison staff members were being asked to contribute up to $60 each to raise thousands of dollars for an employee appreciation event.
The prison director heading up the fundraising declined to talk to us on camera because of the investigation, but a Department of Public Safety spokesperson tells us that the fundraising in question has been suspended.
"This was a well-intentioned effort to raise funds for an annual employee appreciation meal," explains Keith Acree. "A meal was held last year, and a few people on the organizing committee ended up paying for the event out of their pockets."
Still, an October e-mail sent by Prison Administrator Patsy Chavis to staff reads, "We cannot require anyone to pay...however supervisors need to be encouraged to participate... Please let me know if you encounter any resistance or unwillingness to pay."
Our tipster said some prison employees have been passed over for promotions because they declined to contribute to the fund, but Chavis cited other examples of employees who were promoted even though they had not contributed.
Prison administrators have collected over $1,000 from employees so far. Our source says despite that, prison employees still had to pay to attend an employee appreciation meal at Christmas.
The state expects the investigation to be complete within the next week.
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