06/21/12 — Former Mount Olive police chief under SBI probe

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Former Mount Olive police chief under SBI probe

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 21, 2012 1:46 PM

BOILING SPRING LAKES -- Boiling Spring Lakes Police Chief Emmett Ballree, a former chief of the Mount Olive Police Department, in an email to members of his department, said that allegations of possible obstruction of justice sparked an SBI investigation of him.

The email does not provide any specifics about the allegations and the SBI and district attorney's office in Brunswick County declined to comment on the nature of the allegations.

Copies of Ballree's emails were made available by Boiling Spring Lakes Town Manager Jeff Repp in response to a public records request by the News-Argus.

Ballree remains on the job, Repp said.

"At this point in time he is still working and not on any kind of either paid or unpaid administrative leave," Repp said. "Since the complaint was made outside of the city government to the Superior Court judge and district attorney who requested the investigation, the city has no information in which to take any action, if, action was warranted based on whatever the specific complaint was that generated the investigation.

"So the city is awaiting the results of the SBI investigation before any personnel action is taken if warranted. To date I have not heard from SBI as to when that may be."

In a June 11 email to the police department, Ballree called the allegations "unfounded" and said that he had his own "opinion as to what and who" is behind them.

He also instructed his officers to cooperate with SBI agents and cautioned them against talking outside the department about anything concerning the investigation.

Ballree apologized to members of his department for them having to be involved, but added, "it certainly wasn't of my doing."

The investigation was opened June 4 at the request of Jon David, district attorney for Bladen, Brunswick and Columbus counties, and a Superior Court judge.

David has called the investigation a preliminary inquiry, the results of which would determine whether a full criminal investigation was warranted.

David said that he and Chief Judge Ola Lewis asked the SBI to open the inquiry after he was contacted on May 25 about "alleged criminal activity" involving Ballree.

In his e-mail, Ballree's said: "I was contacted last week and informed that a request has been made of the SBI to conduct an investigation that involves allegations [sic] of possible acts of Obstruction of Justice that have been lodged against me. The SBI agents have been in town for a few days, and will be here again this week. They will want to conduct interviews with all or some of you during this investigation. I ask all employees to cooperate with the agents if interviewed.

"Although I have my own opinion as to what and who is behind these unfounded allegations [sic], I also realize that once an action such as this begins, it has to run it's [sic] course. I apologize [sic] to all of you for having to be involved in this, but it certainly wasn't of my doing."

Ballree served as Mount Olive police chief for 13 years before resigning in 2007 after town officials alleged he had used a town gas card to buy fuel for his personal cars. However, Ballree was cleared by a state Department of Justice Training and Standards committee.