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E-mails show Hillsborough PD employee was running tax business on town time

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At least one employee who was supposed to be making sure the Hillsborough Police Department met accreditation requirements was instead conducting for-profit business on work time using her town e-mail address.

After a public records request by The News & Observer/Chapel Hill News, the town released more than 80 e-mails dated from February 2007 to March 2009 showing that former accreditation manager Zina Long Barnett was running a tax-preparation business from her office at the Police Department.

The newspaper had asked for any e-mail messages police employees had used for side businesses. Internet abuse was one of the main problems Peterson discovered after a mock assessment last October found the department out of compliance with accreditation standards.

“Significant numbers of e-mails were found indicating some employees were spending a large amount of work time running personal businesses in lieu of tending to assigned responsibilities, thus contributing to neglect of duty and poor performance,” Peterson wrote.

Peterson said two employees were running businesses on town time. The second employee objected to the release of his or her e-mails on the grounds they are protected personnel information. The town has thus far withheld them.

Between October and June, five employees, including Barnett and former Police Chief Clarence Birkhead, left the department.

Efforts to reach Barnett via e-mail, Facebook and telephone were unsuccessful.

Look for more on this story in tomorrow's N&O and Sunday's Chapel Hill News.

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About the blogger

Jesse James DeConto is the government reporter for Chapel Hill and Orange County for The News & Observer and The Chapel Hill News.