WHITEVILLE, NC (AP) — A North Carolina judge has suspended a sheriff who was recorded calling black employees with derogatory names and saying they should be fired.
Columbus County Sheriff Jody Greene’s suspension on Tuesday comes after District Attorney Jon David filed for his resignation for engaging in racial profiling of employees personally and through those under his command, WECT-TV reported. Supreme Court Justice Douglas B. Sasser suspended Greene until a hearing could be held on the removal request.
David, the district attorney for the Bladen, Brunswick and Columbus counties, said last week that he had asked the State Bureau of Investigation to investigate allegations of obstruction of justice within the sheriff’s office, but declined to comment further. The SBI confirmed the request, but declined to comment further on what it called an ongoing investigation.
“Defendant has intentionally committed misconduct and mismanagement during his term of office,” David wrote in the petition. “The acts committed by the Defendant… constitute corruption while in office.”
The 2019 appeal to the then Capt. Jason Soles came in shortly after Greene narrowly defeated former Sheriff Lewis Hatcher, who is Black. Soles was acting temporarily as sheriff at the time due to a court-brokered agreement that prevented Greene from taking on the duties of the office while election officials investigated the contest, which was ultimately decided by fewer than 40 votes.
In the conversation, Greene, who is white, said he believed someone in the sheriff’s office was leaking information to Hatcher, the station reported.
“I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough of these Black[expletives],” says Greene. “I’m going to clean up the house and then I’ll be done with it. And we’ll get to work from there.”
Greene was also recorded as saying, “Every Black I know, you have to fire him to begin with, he’s a snake.”
Several black officers in leadership positions were later demoted or fired. WECT-TV reported that two black officers were part of the previous sheriff’s group of senior officers known as command staff, but that a captain was fired and a lieutenant was demoted after Greene was sworn in. Another black sergeant said he was fired shortly after Green was chosen. The station reported that several black deputies appear to remain in the sheriff’s office in positions below the command staff level.
Greene released a statement last week claiming that the recording of a 2019 phone call obtained by the television station had been edited or altered. But he did not deny in the statement that he was on the phone or making the statements.
The recording was given to the bureau by the captain of a former sheriff who is now competing against Greene to become sheriff. Columbus County is located about 120 miles (193 km) southeast of Raleigh, has about 50,000 people and is about 63% white and 30% black.
The hearing on the removal request is scheduled for October 24.
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