N.C. police chief put on unpaid leave for offering false vaccination card opportunity to officers

TJ Smith, the police chief of Oakboro, a town in Stanly County, is being disciplined for his actions.
TJ Smith, the police chief of Oakboro, a town in Stanly County, is being disciplined for his...
TJ Smith, the police chief of Oakboro, a town in Stanly County, is being disciplined for his actions.(Oakboro Police Department)
Published: Dec. 22, 2021 at 2:46 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 22, 2021 at 3:43 PM EST
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OAKBORO, N.C. (WBTV) - A town administrator has placed a North Carolina police chief on unpaid leave because he reportedly was telling officers about a “clinic” to get vaccination cards without actually being vaccinated against COVID-19.

TJ Smith, the police chief of Oakboro, a town in Stanly County, is being disciplined for his actions.

Oakboro Town Administrator Doug Burgess sent Chief Smith a letter, informing him of his decision to punish the chief.

Burgess says Chief Smith was notifying law enforcement officers to attend a “clinic” where they would be able to obtain proof of COVID-19 vaccination cards without being vaccinated.

The letter says this action violates Personnel Policies Section 5: 1) Fraud, 6) Willful acts that endanger the property of others, and 10) Serving a conflicting interest.

The town manager placed Chief Smith on unpaid leave for two weeks, beginning Dec. 21. Chief Smith is also placed on probation for six months.

“Based on my review of all information available and provided that relate to your failures in personnel conduct, I am placing you on unpaid leave for two calendar weeks,” the letter read.

The town manager says further violations will lead to discipline up to and including dismissal. The letter states that Chief Smith has the right to appeal this action.

Chief Smith responded, and gave his side of the story:

“Many have asked me for details regarding my involvement in recent allegations. To make a long story short, in retrospect, I made a mistake. A friend called me with some information about a mobile vaccination clinic. It was a busy morning like every other busy morning. After I got off the phone with that friend, I called two other officers (not in my department) and passed on information about what was described as a “self-vaccination” clinic. I got one phone call, hung up and made two others. I didn’t sit back and digest the information, ruminate on it, or otherwise give it much thought. I just passed it on.”

“Having the benefit of hindsight now, it is obvious the entire process sounds questionable. I didn’t post it on social media, and I didn’t really sit back and think hard on it at that moment. It was just one person sharing the word with another.”

“I’m not a doctor and not in the medical field. I don’t know much about the vaccine process or what’s involved. That’s what these clinics and such are for. Being in the military, I have taken many vaccinations without ever knowing what was in them or how they worked. I received my own Covid vaccines in the spring of this year from the VA hospital in Salisbury. I just try to help people where I can, and I passed on something that, in hindsight, I shouldn’t have.”

“I’m owning that. It was a mistake, and I shared misinformation. That’s true. I wanted to say something about this before now, but with everything going on, it was best that I wait for the investigative process to conclude. “I shared something that wasn’t true. I didn’t profit from it. I couldn’t possibly profit from it, and I didn’t do it from a place of malice. I care deeply about others, and I sincerely appreciate that I have a job that allows me to serve them and to see things improve in my community. We have the greatest people anywhere right here in Oakboro, and I hope they know my heart well enough to know that this came from a place of caring, that I realize I made a mistake now, and that they will allow me to continue serving in the best way I know how.”

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