• Jefferson Weaver

Board Denies Byrd Statement

Despite his claims to the contrary, Commissioner Giles “Buddy” Byrd never shared a secret recording of then-Sheriff Jody Greene with his fellow commissioners, the county said today in a press release.

A story on a Wilmington television station Monday focused on Byrd’s criticism of Greene’s continuing campaign for sheriff. While it is unusual for a sitting commissioner to openly express support or opposition for a candidate in a local election, it’s not illegal.

Byrd also said he shared a secret recording of Greene with the rest of the board “about a year ago.”

Tuesday morning, the county administration took the unusual step of issuing a press release disputing Byrd’s statement.

“…at no time has the Columbus County Board of Commissioners been presented with the reported audio tape conversation between Jody Greene and Jason Soles,” the statement from the board read in part.

The 2019 audio recording was made of Greene by Democrat Sheriff Candidate Jason Soles, who released the audio to the media in September. The recording led to a petition by District Attorney Jon David that cites complaints of racial bias, corruption, sexual harassment, and other criminal acts.

The petition for Greene’s removal was dismissed in Columbus County Superior Court last week when Greene resigned. District Attorney Jon David said that he intends to bring the petitions back to the court if Greene wins the race Tuesday.

Soles told the same television station that Byrd was the only person in authority who would listen to the recording. On Monday Byrd said he told the rest of the board about the recording “a year ago,” to no avail. Soles also said he told the district attorney, State Bureau of Investigation, and county administration about the recording.

Commissioners who were contacted individually at the time said Soles never attempted to share the recording with them. David said he found out about the recording via media reports, as did Gov. Roy Cooper. The SBI did not return a request for comment at the time, but did not begin an investigation into Greene’s administration until they were asked to do so by David after the initial broadcast.

The veteran commissioner has been an outspoken critic of Greene’s since before the 2018 election, when Greene narrowly defeated Democrat Sheriff Lewis Hatcher. That election was finally decided in the courts.

Several witnesses who spoke anonymously said Byrd recruited Victor Jacobs to run in the Democrat primary this year. After Jacobs was defeated by Soles, multiple sources reported Byrd saying publicly that he would “spend a million dollars of my own money” to ensure Greene was “taken out of office.”

Jacobs later signed onto the petition against Greene, stating the sheriff had an extramarital affair with Investigator Samantha Hickman while on duty. Hickman denied Jacobs’ claim. She has since resigned from the CCSO (see related story).

Byrd was arrested by the sheriff’s office in 2020 for larceny of a storage building from a campground Byrd has an interest in at Lake Waccamaw. The storage building was placed on property Byrd controls at the lake. The case was eventually dismissed by a special prosecutor. The prosecutor reportedly found sufficient evidence to charge Byrd’s business partner, but that individual has never been charged.

In an affidavit attached to the petition for removal, Byrd said the arrest was harassment by Greene for Byrd’s refusal to support additional funding for the sheriff’s office, specifically for riot gear and pay increases. Byrd said in the affidavit that he felt the arrest was an attempt to intimidate Byrd and others.

“I believe the charges were brought about by Greene in an attempt to influence future votes or to retaliate against me for votes that I had made as a county commissioner,” Byrd said in the sworn statement.

Byrd did not return a request for comment. Commission Chair Ricky Bullard refused comment, saying that the statement released by the board “stands as all we have to say right now.”

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