A three-judge panel of the N.C. Court of Appeals upheld this morning a lower court’s ruling that politics motivated the firing of a high-profile Democrat who had once served as director of the state Alcohol Law Enforcement Division.

The case involves John Ledford, a former Madison County sheriff who led ALE from 2009 to 2012. Shortly before the Democratic administration of former Gov. Beverly Perdue gave way to current Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in 2013, Ledford asked for and received a reassignment to a field agent’s job in Asheville.

He was fired from that post. The man who made that decision, now-Department of Public Safety Secretary Frank Perry, contended that Ledford followed improper procedures in getting the reassignment. Supporters of Ledford’s firing said he had changed jobs in order to avoid dismissal under the authority of a new governor from the opposite political party.

An administrative law judge disagreed, calling Ledford’s dismissal politically motivated. The unanimous Appeals Court panel agreed with the lower court.