OAKBORO, N.C. — The Oakboro police chief will not face more discipline after accusations that he told officers where they could get a fake vaccine card.
Channel 9 anchor Allison Latos has followed the investigation for five months, and she learned a pharmacy is in hot water over it.
Chief TJ Smith’s police certification is safe.
The North Carolina Department of Justice Criminal Standards Division found “no probable cause” that Smith lacked the good moral character to be an officer or instructor.
In December, the town of Oakboro placed Smith on two weeks of unpaid leave after town leaders said he told officers and state troopers about a clinic where they could get a COVID-19 vaccine card without being vaccinated.
The North Carolina Board of Pharmacy launched an investigation and said it was investigating allegations that Vaxvan pharmacy and a pharmacist, Carl Wood, were holding COVID-19 vaccination events.
People were able to obtain a COVID-19 vaccination card without getting the shot at those events, officials said.
At the time, Wood said he and Vaxvan “have never provided vaccine cards to anyone without witnessing them receive the COVID-19 vaccine.”
The board of pharmacy suspended Wood’s license and the permits for Vaxvan to operate.
Latos contacted Wood by email Wednesday and asked for a comment on the pharmacy board’s action.She has not heard back from Wood.
The pharmacist and Vaxvan can apply to be reinstated by the pharmacy board.
DOJ investigating police chief who allegedly told officers where to get fake vaccine cards
The chief of police in Oakboro returned to work on Jan. 4 after two weeks of unpaid leave.
Chief T.J. Smith was disciplined for allegedly notifying officers and troopers about a clinic where they could get a COVID-19 vaccine card without being vaccinated, according to a letter obtained by Channel 9.
Channel 9 obtained another letter on Jan. 4 that shows the North Carolina Department of Justice Criminal Standards Division has started a preliminary administrative investigation of Chief Smith.
That meant he was still not in the clear. An attorney told Channel 9′s Allison Latos that the investigation had the potential to end Smith’s career.
In December, Oakboro town leaders paid for a private investigation company to look into the claims against Smith. But later, the NC Department of Justice began investigating too.
One attorney who handles these types of cases told Latos if state officials found Chief Smith violated rules, he could have faced consequences that range from a letter of admonishment to the potential revocation of his certification.
“It is very concerning for the officer because their career is on the line, if their certification is taken in the state of North Carolina by the commission,” said attorney Barry Henline.
Henline said cases like this are difficult because issues of morality and ethics are subjective.
Chief Smith would likely have had a chance to defend himself at a hearing.
>> A copy of the NC DOJ letter can be found here.
Oakboro police chief told officers where to get COVID vaccine card without a shot, letter says
In a letter the town sent to Chief Smith on Dec. 21, town leaders said his actions violated “personnel policies of fraud” and were “willful acts that endanger the property of others and serving a conflicting interest.”
The letter said Smith would be placed on unpaid administrative leave for two weeks and probation for six months, starting Dec. 21. Smith had the option to appeal the decision.
Channel 9 anchor Allison Latos learned the town of Oakboro paid private investigation company Blue Chameleon Investigations $1,600 to investigate the allegations against Smith.
The company found that Smith told officers and troopers there was a vaccination clinic where they could pay $50 and they would be given a syringe to go in a bathroom to self-inject or dispose of the vaccine. Smith said there was an arrangement with a pharmacist and that either way, the officers would receive a vaccination card, the investigation said.
In an interview with Smith and the private investigation company at the Oakboro Board of Chambers, Smith said: “He did not view anything wrong with the procedure as he was unfamiliar at the time with vaccine rules.”
He also added that it was only after doing research, did he know that the self-injection procedure was against the rules, according to the investigation.
During the interview, Smith said he regretted being involved.
Latos asked the North Carolina Board of Pharmacy if they were aware of a potential clinic where people could get a COVID-19 vaccine card without getting the shot. The executive director said he “will assign this out for investigation.” As of Jan. 5, they were still investigating.
Oakboro Mayor Joyce Little told Channel 9 that Smith was placed on administrative leave “pending the outcome of an investigation.”
Channel 9 initially requested more information surrounding the inquiry but was told the details are not public record as it could jeopardize the integrity of the investigation.
Oakboro officials said Captain Craig Richards served as the town’s acting chief of police in Smith’s absence.
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