ABC11 Investigates

Troxler speaks out on employee in Butterball tipoff

Thursday, January 19, 2012

There are new developments in the raid at a local turkey plant. Now, a State Department of Agriculture employee is feeling the heat after investigators say she tipped off Butterball officials.

Her boss, Agriculture Secretary Steve Troxler, spoke out Thursday. The commissioner spoke with to the media hours after a watchdog group sent a request to his department seeking more information.

"What really happened, who was involved, why did this happen," said Gerrick Brenner of Progress North Carolina.

Those are questions the group Progress North Carolina said it's seeking to answer with an open records request which asked the Department of Agriculture to provide copies of documents showing communication between any state Ag employee, including Dr. Sarah Mason, and Butterball between Dec. 23 and Jan. 19.

Hoke County authorities raided the Butterball plant on Dec. 28 days after Mason reportedly reached out to a Butterball veterinarian. Mason released a statement this week, saying she acted on her own. She said she reached out to a fellow veterinarian to immediately curtail any avian abuse.

"We want to know who was really involved in this. How does an employee in the Department of Agriculture somehow think it's alright to go tip off Butterball about a criminal probe," said Brenner.

"The things that have happened, I think have been characterized in a way that makes Dr. Sarah Mason look like a villain and I'm not sure that's the truth," said Troxler.

Troxler describes Mason as an exemplary employee who remains on the job while they investigate and let authorities do their job.

"Dr. Mason has not been charged with anything nor convicted of anything," said Troxler. "She has said in her statement that she erred in judgment and she's remorseful for it. I'm not going to condemn her today for doing what she did in the criminal sense, but we're going look at the personnel aspects of it and act appropriately."

Troxler said the department is conducting a thorough investigation. There's no word yet on just how long that review would take.

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