• Jefferson Weaver

Greene Retakes Sheriff Seat

Republican Jody Greene won the hardfought contest with Democrat Jason Soles for the sheriff’s post Tuesday.

Greene gathered 10,034 votes to Soles’ 8,458. Soles carried much of the early voting and absentees, but as precincts began delivering Election Day ballots, Greene took and held the lead for much of the night.

The campaign drew national attention after Greene resigned from office among accusations of racism and intimidation. The election continued making headlines through Wednesday morning, earning a spot on the Huffington Post Tuesday night just after the polls closed.

Soles posted a statement on social media Wednesday morning where he said “The election may be over, but the race isn’t finished yet.

“We have so much more to do for Columbus County. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for having enough courage to stand beside me throughout this campaign.”

Soles praised the work of his campaign volunteers, and emphasized his determination to go on.

“I will continue fighting for what is right. My ultimate goal all along was to bring Unity back to this County and that goal remains. Keep the Faith! It isn’t over yet!”

Outside of brief posts thanking the voters, Greene didn’t issue a statement online Tuesday.

The campaign was being closely watched since Soles beat Victor Jacobs for the Democrat nomination in the spring. Jacobs quickly threw his endorsement behind Soles.

In September, days before the opening of early polls, Soles released a partial 2019 audio recording of Greene making disparaging remarks about black employees at the sheriff’s office. Soles made the recording when he was acting as interim sheriff in the wake of the tempestuous 2018 campaign. Greene defeated incumbent Lewis Hatcher – who Soles worked under as a captain, and actively campaigned for while in uniform. Soles was thought to be Hatcher’s next choice for chief deputy.

While Greene’s residency was being determined by the courts, Soles was appointed as interim sheriff to manage day to day affairs until either Hatcher or Greene was installed., Greene was not sworn into office when the recording was made.

Soles told media outlets that he was shocked to hear Greene using racist language, so he started recording the conversation.

He also said that for three years, Soles attempted to share the recording with county commissioners, the district attorney, and State Bureau of Investigation. Soles said only one commissioner agreed to listen -- Democrat Commissioner Giles “Buddy” Byrd, a staunch critic of Greene who had been arrested by the CCSO for stealing a barn in 2020.

Byrd later told media outlets that he had played the recording for commissioners. The board took the unusual step the next day of issuing a statement disputing Byrd’s claim. Byrd continued to insist that he said the recording “was out there” and was readily available for people to hear.

When Soles released the audio recording, District Attorney Jon David said he had never heard of it before it was offered by the media. He immediately asked for the State Bureau of Investigation to start a probe into Greene’s sheriff’s office. The SBI never confirmed or denied that agents knew of the recording before it was released, but when Gov. Roy Cooper announced possible sanctions against the CCSO on Oct. 6, he said state officials found out about the tape through the media report.

David filed an emergency petition to suspend Greene pending investigation into allegations of racial profiling, civil rights violations, and other accusations. The suspension was approved by Superior Court Judge Douglas Sasser, and a full amended complaint was filed with the courts Oct. 21, the Friday before the final hearing on Oct. 24.

In the filing, Democrat leaders Andy Anderson, Franklin Thurman, Buddy Byrd, former commissioner Edwin Russ, Carol Caldwell and others presented a series of affidavits in the amended filing.

Several of the affidavits did not specify that Greene had directly had taken action against them or others, but accused Chief Deputy Aaron Herring and unnamed members of the sheriff’s office of intimidation and racist behavior.

Greene was also accused by former deputy and sheriff’s candidate Victor Jacobs of having an affair with Samantha Hickman, a narcotics investigator with the CCSO. Jacobs said in the sworn affidavit that he had recordings of Hickman discussing the affair. Hickman said she did not have an affair with Greene, and she confided in Jacobs as a friend and a pastor when she discovered she was pregnant.

Hickman was in the courtroom ready to testify on Oct. 24 when Greene announced through his attorney Michael Mills that he would resign if the complaints against him were dropped. David agreed, then later said that he would continue to pursue a petition to remove Greene if he was reelected.

David did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether he still plans to pursue the petition when Greene is sworn in Dec. 5.

Retired Trooper William Rogers was hired as Interim Sheriff after Greene resigned. He will hold that post until Greene is sworn in Dec. 5.

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