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  • Writer's pictureJefferson Weaver

State Withholds Grant Monies Pending CCSO Probe

Columbus County has been rejected for two state grants due to the fallout from accusations of racism against Sheriff Jody Greene and the sheriff’s office.

The Governor’s Highway Safety Program and Governor’s Crime Commission both informed County Manager Eddie Madden and Interim Sheriff William Rogers regarding the cuts via letter last week.

Both agencies cited failure to adhere to federal civil rights laws, although Greene is still, awaiting a hearing next week to determine if he will be removed from office.

District Attorney Jon David petitioned the court for the hearing on accusations that Greene used racist and inflammatory language in a conversation that was recorded by Jason Soles, his opponent in the Nov. 8 elections. Soles released the recording to the media in September, three years after they were made. Soles told a Wilmington media outlet that he approached the District Attorney’s Office, county administration, commissioners and the State Bureau of Investigation with the recordings at the time, but was rebuffed. Soles said only one county commissioner, Giles “Buddy” Byrd, would listen to the recording.

The DA’s office and multiple county commissioners said they never heard about the recordings until after they were contacted by media.

After the recordings were released to the media, David sent Greene a letter urging him to step down, then requested the petition and asked the State Bureau of Investigation look into unspecified allegations against the sheriff’s office.

The GHSP funds traffic and impaired driving enforcement, as well as the Heavy Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) which emphasizes narcotics violations.

In an official letter to Rogers, GHSP Director Mark Ezzell wrote that “statements and actions in news reports and the verified petition suggest” that the sheriff’s office is not in compliance with federal civil rights laws and other requirements of the funding process.

“Therefore, effective immediately, the GHSP FY 2023 grant to the Columbus County Sheriff’s Office is suspended. GHSP will not reimburse (the CCSO) for any grant-related activities taking place within the FY 2023 grant cycle (Oct. 1, 2022 through Sept. 30, 2023.)

“Should steps be taken to alleviate these concerns, the GHSP will consider reinstating the grant at a later date.”

The Governor’s Crime Commission suspended a grant request for new computers at the sheriff’s office “until these matters can be more fully resolved,” according to an Oct. 12 memo from GCC Executive Director Caroline Farmer. The memo was preceded by an email sent to Madden on Sunday, Oct. 16.

“The Sheriff’s statements reflected in the petition and public reports are deeply troubling and do not reflect the values and mission of the GCC or Department of Public Safety,” the memo said. “Given the nature of the comments, the GCC is concerned that the (CCSO) cannot meet the expectations for compliance with State and Federal laws against non-discrimination, which are a pre-condition to any award.” The memo said that the sheriff’s office had also failed to provide required further documentation.

“Should steps be taken to alleviate these concerns, we will consider reinstation the grant award at that time.”

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