Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Two months later, Southport Police Chief and top lieutenant fired, department still mothballed

The official termination comes over two months after the chief and top lieutenant of the Southport Police Department were arrested.


Southport Police Chief Gary Smith (left) and Lt. Michael Simmons were arrested for operating a secondary business while being clocked in after a lengthy SBI and FBI investigation. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)

SOUTHPORT — Over two months after they were arrested as part of an interagency investigation, Southport’s Chief of Police Gary Smith and top officer, Lt. Michael Simmons, have been fired, town officials now reveal.

On July 26, Brunswick County District Attorney Jon David announced that Smith and Simmons had been arrested and charged with several crimes related to operating an interstate trucking company, while on the clock at the Southport Police Department.

The Southport Police Department was effectively shuttered, in part because Smith had hired several of the current Southport officers as chief. Brunswick County Sheriff’s deputies assumed law enforcement duties in the area. The Sheriff’s Office claimed this would not incur any additional county costs.

However, the mothballed police department did continue to cost Southport, at least $1,700 by some accounts — a cost that, for at least a week, included pay for Smith and Simmons. The chief and top lieutenant were eventually moved to unpaid suspension, but the rest of the department remains on paid leave.

In early August, the town launched an outside investigation and audit of the police department. At the time, there were nine employees – including Smith and Simmons. The department usually has a staff of 11, but two had recently left: one, in June, and a second, just days before the arrests.

On Friday, the City Manager’s office confirmed Smith and Simmons had been fired, effective Oct. 3. City Manager Bruce Oakley was not available for comment, but staff said the town expects the independent audit to be complete next week.

It is still unclear what the timeline for reinstating Southport’s officers is, or what the ultimate cost of the arrest of Smith and Simmons will be to the town. Neither Smith or Simmons have a current court date assigned, possibly due to delays and rescheduling caused by Hurricane Florence.

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