Hillsborough officials are monitoring statements about the town and its police department to determine whether they should release personnel information about former police chief and Durham County sheriff candidate Clarence Birkhead.
On Monday night, the town board granted Town Manager Eric Peterson permission to share employment information about Birkhead, who was police chief from 2005 to 2010.
Peterson can release the information if he deems it "essential to maintaining public confidence in the administration of town services," and the level and quality of town services, a related resolution states.
Birkhead "appears to have made certain representations" regarding his tenure as chief and "the circumstances surrounding his separation from employment" as police chief, the related resolution states.
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The town has received several related inquires about Birkhead's employment, the resolution states.
The town's resolution follows incumbent Sheriff Mike Andrews questioning Birkhead's record at the Hillsborough Police Department and transparency about what happened.
Town documents and Peterson’s limited statement on the issue differ greatly from Birkhead's account of what happened.
Peterson said Birkhead left the department in "shambles" as a months-long investigation raised questions about a re-accrediation by the nonprofit organization Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA).
Birkhead said at a sheriff candidate forum at the Durham County Republican Party headquarters Tuesday night that when he left to run for Orange County sheriff in 2010, the department was accredited.
“The Hillsborough Police Department was fully accredited in 2010 when I resigned to run for sheriff of Orange County. It was still accredited. It wasn’t until I was gone, I think it was sometime in August, they decided not to pursue re-accreditation,” Birkhead said. “I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s because they didn’t think they had the human capital to be successful.”
Birkhead couldn't be reached for comment immediately Tuesday morning, when the town of Hillsborough released the resolution and Peterson's statement.
Peterson has pointed to public documents that outline problems discovered months before Birkhead left.
In a previous interview, Peterson said such statements by Birkhead leave him "baffled."
“The facts are we were not re-accredited, and [Birkhead] left the Hillsborough Police Department in shambles,” Peterson said. “For him to say that is outrageous.”
In general, state law prevents the release of public employees' personnel records, except for 12 items that include name, age, salary, title, dates of promotions or demotions and salary increases or decreases.
The rest of the information is deemed confidential unless it meets specific criteria that would allow someone to review it, such as written authorization from an employee.
The criteria includes a city manager, with the concurrence of council, releasing additional information if it is determined "the release is essential to maintaining public confidence in the administration of city services or to maintaining the level and quality of city services," the law states.