RALEIGH — Gov. Bev Perdue expressed anger and frustration Friday after another state trooper resigned as a result of misconduct.
Master Trooper Timothy S. Stiwinter quit after being charged with drunken driving and felony hit and run by Asheville police.
The patrol also confirmed Friday that Lt. Roger Young, a trooper based in Greensboro, resigned June 16.
N.C. Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Jeff Gordon said he could not comment on why Young resigned, citing state personnel privacy protections.
The latest resignations add to what has been a spate of embarrassing personnel problems for the patrol, with troopers fired or forced to resign for lying, having sex on the job, abusing animals, driving drunk and assaulting female motorists.
Perdue said Friday she is tired of unpleasant surprises involving the Highway Patrol.
"No one is angrier or more frustrated by this latest news about misbehaving troopers than I am," Perdue said, according to a written statement. "You know me as the governor working to set government straight - and I can tell you one thing, this has to stop."
Perdue appointed a longtime friend from New Bern, Col. Randy Glover, as the patrol's commander last year, saying that he could lead by example at an agency then rocked by sex scandals and revelations of trooper misconduct.
But Glover's moral authority was soon eroded after it became known that he was disciplined early in his career for carrying on an extramarital affair with a sheriff's dispatcher, a transgression potentially considered a firing offense under the patrol's current standards for conduct.
Stiwinter was arrested after a wreck Thursday night in which a vehicle ran a red light and hit a car, before leaving the scene. Investigators say Stiwinter, who was off duty at the time, was stopped by an Asheville police officer a couple of hours later.
An officer detected the smell of alcohol on Stiwinter's breath and noted that he appeared unsteady, according to the Asheville police. The trooper refused to take a field sobriety test or a breath-alcohol test, and a search warrant was filed to test Stiwinter's blood for alcohol.
Stiwinter, a trooper since 1999, was assigned to Troop G in Hendersonville.
On Wednesday, one of the patrol's highest-ranking officers, Maj. Everett Clendenin, was forced to resign after he was placed under investigation for inappropriate text messages sent to a female coworker. Clendenin, who is married, served for a decade as the patrol's primary public spokesman, often standing before reporters when some other trooper had lost his job due to misconduct.
The state Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, which includes the Highway Patrol, has refused to release copies of the text messages sent to the woman from Clendenin's state-owned mobile phone. The messages are public records under state law.
Crime Control Secretary Reuben Young announced Clendenin's resignation at a hastily called news conference. He called the major's misconduct an "unfortunate occurrence" that "is not reflective of the outstanding character and history of this great organization."
A parade of departures
But troopers losing their jobs in disgrace have not been rare in recent years, or in the last month. And the problems have included some of the patrol's most seasoned and highest-ranking troopers.
Capt. James Williams Jr., who supervised patrol operations in a 12-county area that includes Wake, was fired May 13 after he was caught driving drunk while off duty on Interstate 85. Three officers from Butner Public Safety, a state agency, were also fired for failing to arrest Williams, deciding instead to give the trooper a ride to a nearby motel.
Trooper Larry B. Lovicka of Raleigh resigned June 7. He is under investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation for alleged criminal misconduct against a woman during a May traffic stop.
Since 1998, at least 30 members of the patrol have been disciplined or fired for sexual misconduct, including having on-duty sex encounters in and on their patrol cars. During one romp, a trooper inadvertently dropped his state-issued handgun, which was later found by children. He received a five-day suspension.
Trooper goes to prison
Trooper Michael Steele Jr. was sentenced to nearly seven years in prison for abducting and fondling Hispanic women at traffic stops in Orange County in 2008 and then threatening them with deportation if they told.
Trooper Ronald Ezzell Jr., a 19-year veteran of the patrol, was fired last year for showing an explicit photo to a state credit union teller. He was in uniform and in a patrol car at the time.
Two years ago, the Highway Patrol hired a team of outside consultants to examine its troubled culture.
According to their report, the consultants concluded that the patrol is "an exceedingly macho, pseudo-military culture" where some veteran troopers described sex on the job as "an expected fringe benefit."
Perdue said Friday she recognizes that the repeated disclosures of misconduct have harmed the reputation of an agency long regarded as among the state's best.
"Every incident like this tarnishes the badge that so many brave men and women wear with pride and dignity every day," Perdue said. "Every story like this one further erodes the public's confidence in what should be the state's elite law enforcement agency."