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Judge rules ALE agent fired improperly by McCrory administration

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

An administrative judge has ruled that a former Alcohol Law Enforcement director was improperly fired by the McCrory Administration because he was a Democrat.

Judge Fred Morrison has ordered that John Ledford, 48, be re-instated as an ALE agent.

Morrison ruled that Ledford "was a marked man politically following the 2012 election for governor."

Morrison ruled that Ledford was due back pay and attorneys' fees.

Ledford had been a Madison County sheriff before taking over ALE from October 2009 to December 2012. He moved to an ALE field agent job in Asheville before Gov. Pat McCrory took over as governor. Ledford sought to move to a different position that would not be subject to removal for political reasons. As director, he could be dismissed without cause.

In April, he told the Asheville Citizen-Times that was firing was "obviously politically motivated."

Ledford registered as a Democrat at the age of 18 and his father, also a Democrat, had been on the Madison County Board of Commissioners for 20 years, according to court documents.

Ledford asked to return to field work in a written request to Department of Public Safety Secretary Reuben Young, a Democrat, in a letter written Nov. 27, 2012, after the election. Young approved the request in a memo dated Dec. 19.

Ledford's pay was reduced from $110,000 to $65,887. In that new role, the court said, he had "performed very well."

According to the court documents, McCrory's transition team met with DPS officials after the election and asked if any non-exempt employees were moving to exempt positions.

In a memo April 10, DPS Commissioner of Law Enforcement Frank Perry advised Ledford, court documents show, that he was being terminated from state service for participating in the events that led to his demotion.

Ledford was not given notice of charges against him and not given a chance to tell his side of the story.

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