Sheriff Jody Greene has been suspended from office pending a hearing Oct. 24 in Columbus County Superior Court.
Superior Court Judge Douglas Sasser signed the order today, and it was served to Greene by the State Bureau of Investigation via Chief Deputy Aaron Herring.
In the order filed by District Attorney Jon David, Greene is accused of racial profiling, “corruption while in office,” willful misconduct and maladministration, and “obstruction of justice and willful failure to discharge a duty office.”
The filing came after Greene’s Democrat opponent in November, Jason Soles, released a recording of Greene making vulgar and racial statements about employees at the sheriff’s office. The recording was made in 2019 while Soles was interim sheriff, and the courts were determining Greene’s residency status.
Soles released the recording to a Wilmington TV station last week. He told the television station he had spent the last three years attempting to find someone who would listen to the recordings and start an investigation. The District Attorney, State Bureau of Investigation, County commissioners and county administration found out about the recordings through the media last week. Soles said Commissioner Giles Byrd, a fellow Democrat, was the only person who would listen to his complaints. Byrd was arrested by the sheriff’s office for stealing a storage barn. The charges were eventually dismissed.
Under General Statutes, a petition to remove a sheriff must be filed by the district attorney. The petition must state the charges against the accused sheriff, and be filed with the clerk of superior court. The Superior Court Judge then has the responsibility to decide whether or not to suspend the sheriff until a hearing is held.
According to the filing, the recording shows Greene ordered the firing of three black staff members he suspected of providing information to Lewis Hatcher, who Greene narrowly defeated for sheriff.
One of the three black staffers at the time, Melvin Campbell, was fired. Jeremy Barber resigned from the sheriff’s office, and Augustine Clarida was demoted.
Herring will serve as sheriff until Greene’s status is decided by the court. State statutes say a sheriff can be suspended for willful or habitual neglect or refusal to perform the duties of his office; willful misconduct or maladministration in office; corruption; extortion; conviction of a felony; and for intoxication.
David sent Greene a formal letter Monday asking that he resign. In the letter, David said Greene’s comments have led to racial tension in the community, and may force the application of federal Giglio rules regarding any case where race may play a role.
Monday’s county commissioners meeting was adjourned almost before it began due to large numbers of pro- and anti-Greene citizens in attendance.
The NAACP is holding a rally this evening calling for Greene to be removed, and another rally is scheduled for Wednesday morning.
This is a developing story.
Attached below is the petition filed by District Attorney Jon David. Some language in the order is not suitable for publication. The entire order is attached to maintain integrity of the document.