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  • Jefferson Weaver

Greene Set to Take Office

Note: an earlier version of this story contained an error. We apologize for any confusion.

Sheriff-Elect Jody Greene will be sworn in to office tomorrow (Thursday) in a public ceremony at the former county Board of Education building.

The 9 a.m. event is open to the public.

Ashley Collins of the Columbus County Board of Elections said this morning that the state board has instructed local officials to issue the official certificate on Thursday. The last appeal against Greene was thrown out by a Wake County Superior Court Judge last week after being refused by the state board.

“Unless a stay of some sort is ordered by the court today, the certificate of election should be issued to Jody Greene tomorrow,” SBOE Attorney Adam Steele told Collins in an email Wednesday (today).

Calvin Norton, whose complaint against Green was the last one rejected, announced publicly this morning that he intends to file a notice of appeal.

A notice of an appeal is not enough to prevent the release of the certificate, Steele said in the email. Only a court order can prevent Greene from being installed.

Greene still faces multiple challenges in the coming days and weeks.

Democrat challenger Jason soles released a partial audio recording of Greene making racist remarks about sheriff’s office employees in September, weeks before the start of early voting. Soles claimed he shared the nearly three-year-old recording with law enforcement, the district attorney’s office and political leaders before sharing it with the media. That claim has been consistently denied. Soles secretly made the recording while serving as a liaison between Greene and Lewis Hatcher following the razor-thin 2018 election.

District Attorney Jon David pursued a removal petition against Greene within days. An amended petition accused Greene of fostering an atmosphere of racism at the sheriff’s office, and of having an affair with a narcotics detective. The investigator, Samantha Hickman, denied the affair. Hickman was prepared to testify about the claim – made by another former sheriff’s candidate, Victor Jacobs -- when Greene announced in court that he was stepping down.

Greene was automatically suspended by the courts when David filed his original motion for removal, days after Soles released the recording. County commissioners then hired former Trooper William Rogers to serve as interim sheriff.

David also asked for an investigation into the sheriff’s office by the State Bureau of Investigation.

During the hearing to remove him from office, David vowed to pursue a new removal petition against Greene if he was elected in November. Greene defeated Soles by almost 1,600 votes in that election.

In the meantime, Chief Deputy Aaron Herring, who was hired by Greene, was suspended, then demoted to court deputy by Rogers. Herring was later dismissed from the sheriff’s office without explanation.

Federal agents recently executed a search warrant on the CCSO evidence room, seizing multiple cell phones and narcotics paraphernalia from a raid on a Dewitt Lane home. A federal grand jury also heard testimony from a number of local residents, both supporters and opponents of Greene, in early December.

The state agency responsible for administering a military surplus program to local law enforcement announced last week that until accusations of civil rights violations are cleared up, Columbus will not be eligible for free emergency equipment supplied by the military. Columbus was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the program in the state, collecting everything from highwater rescue vehicles to computers, portable showers for relief workers, and tires for patrol vehicles through the program. The equipment could be taken back by the state.

The sheriff’s office also saw the loss of funding for multiple positions and patrol vehicles paid for through the Governor’s Highway safety Program. The specially-trained deputies and vehicles were used both for traffic enforcement and to increase the presence of deputies on area roadways.

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