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  • Jefferson Weaver

Greene Resigns for Second Time

Jody Greene resigned as sheriff for the second time this morning.

The former Highway Patrol sergeant turned in his notice through attorney Michael Mills at the hearing for Greene’s removal from office. District Attorney Jon David filed a new petition seeking Greene’s removal just minutes after Green was sworn in Thursday.

Greene resigned at the start of his previous removal hearing, and David vowed to refile charges against Greene if he was elected to the sheriff’s post. Greene beat challenger Jason Soles by nearly 1,600 votes in November, despite having stepped down. Soles sparked the investigation into the sheriff’s office and Greene in September, when he released an audio recording from 2019 where Greene uses racially charged language discussing CCSO employees.

In a press conference after the hearing, David emphasized that his office didn’t know about the audio recording or hear it until shortly before the recordings were released to the media. He said the State Bureau of Investigation knew about the recordings, but had not heard them.

Greene still faces a deeper investigation by the SBI as well as possible federal charges. Witnesses who were called before a federal grand jury in Raleigh in December included county officials as well as supporters and opponents of Greene.

The hearing was set to begin at 10 a.m., and a large crowd was waiting in the hallway outside the superior courtroom at 9:30. Superior Court Judge Douglas Sasser called the court into session just after 10, and at 10:28 David, Greene attorney Michael Mills, and Sasser withdrew to a private conference. At 10:35 a.m., the session was resumed, and Mills announced that Greene was submitting a resignation effective immediately.

Several in the audience groaned and exclaimed when Mills made the announcement. Sasser instructed the crowd to remain quiet, and reminded them that disrupting the court could result in a fine and jail time.

Mills told the court that Greene was confident he would be exonerated, but that the “emotional and economic toll” on his family, the sheriff’s office and the county were too much.

“Enough is enough,” Mills said. “My client did not want to let the district attorney determine who would be the elected sheriff of Columbus County, and he succeeded at that.”

After a brief recess, Greene submitted his resignation to Lavern Coleman, vice chairman of the county commissioners.

Sasser noted that the court can, under the statute regarding sheriffs, “remove or not remove” a sheriff found guilty of the accusations in the petition.

“His resignation makes that a moot point,” Sasser said. “He is out of office.”

David pressed the court for his second request – declaring Greene ineligible to ever hold office again. Sasser did not grant that motion, saying that it is the job of the board of elections to determine election eligibility.

In the press conference after the hearing, David said that he will continue to press for Greene to be disqualified from holding office. He also noted that the state Sheriff’s Standards Division can determine if Greene will lose his law enforcement certification.

David said he could not comment on the ongoing investigations into the sheriff’s office, but said that he feels “the majority of the men and women with the sheriff’s office are good, honest, hardworking people.

“Don’t paint them with the same brush as Jody Greene,” David said.

David said he had a “roomful of witnesses” at the district attorney’s office who “would have proven the allegations in the petition.”

The district attorney emphasized that there is a “constitutional separation of powers” regarding the removal of a sheriff.

“The district attorney files a petition, and the court determines if the sheriff is removed,” David said.

The prosecutor also addressed claims that he had a personal grudge against Greene, and was subverting the will of the voters.

“An election is a popularity contest,” David said, “but constitutional rights are the law. Every person’s constitutional rights matter. “The district attorney should not choose who is the elected sheriff,” David said. “In this case, we know who should not be sheriff.”

David said that he hopes the county commissioners will hold open interviews of potential new sheriff’s candidates, with public participation. He hinted that he wanted to play a role in the selection process, if asked by the commissioners.

“The new sheriff needs to be one for all the people,” he said.

David said his office has previously enjoyed a good relationship with Chief Deputy Kevin Norris, who will act as sheriff until an interim or permanent appointment is made.

“We look forward to working with the new sheriff,” David said.

Speculation was high Wednesday about who could replace Greene in the sheriff’s post. As chief deputy, Norris could be named interim sheriff, serve the complete term, or until a special election could be held. The name of William “Bill” Rogers, who was appointed interim after Greene’s resignation, has also been mentioned.

Commissioners will schedule a special called meeting, possibly this week, to discuss their next steps.

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