• Jefferson Weaver

Greene Hearing Set for Monday

A hearing Monday will determine if Sheriff Jody Greene will be reinstated, or potentially removed from office.

Greene is accused of making racist remarks about sheriff’s office employees in a 2019 recording released by Jason Soles, his opponent in the November election. District Attorney Jon David determined there was sufficient evidence to ask for a petition removal, and initiated a probe by the State Bureau of Investigation into the sheriff’s office. On Oct. 4, Superior Court Judge Douglas Sasser handed down an order suspending Greene pending Monday’s hearing.

Commissioners appointed retired Trooper Bill Rogers as interim sheriff until Greene is either returned to duty or dismissed. He will serve until Nov. 30, when the winner of the November election takes office.

The state NAACP has requested the U.S. Department of Justice send election observers to Columbus County due to concerns over voter intimidation.

County Commissioners on Monday didn’t respond when local NAACP leader Marcus Norfleet called urged the board to issue a vote of no confidence for Greene. Norfleet said the county board could take a stand against racism with the move.

Monday’s hearing will not be conducted like a criminal trial, but both sides will present evidence and witnesses will be sworn in. Testimony is expected to last several days, if the hearing is not continued.

The recording was made in 2019 while Soles was interim sheriff, and the courts were determining Greene’s residency status. Soles has only released six minutes of an eight minute video he made which shows a telephone on speaker, with the caller ID showing Greene on the other end of the line.

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.

Soles released the recording to a Wilmington TV station in September, setting off a whirlwind of events that resulted in Greene being temporarily removed from office. Soles 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 in September.

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 in 2020. The charges were eventually dismissed. Byrd has said publicly on several occasions that he wants Greene out of office.

Greene has admitted using vulgar language on occasion, especially when he was under stress, but has denied any racial intent or that personnel actions at the sheriff’s office were based on color. Greene has also questioned the authenticity of the recording.

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