By Ivey Schofield
The Columbus County Republican Party is calling for the removal of District Attorney Jon David, who led a months-long effort to get the county’s controversial sheriff out of office.
Sammy Hinson, chairman of the group, described David’s attempts to remove Republican Jody Greene as sheriff as a “set up” and “hit job.”
“I have never seen somebody go after an elected official in Columbus County the way (David) did,” Hinson told the Border Belt Independent on Wednesday.
The call to remove David from office highlights divisions within the local GOP. David, who was re-elected in November as the top prosecutor in Bladen, Brunswick and Columbus counties, is a Republican.
David did not immediately respond to the Border Belt Independent’s request for comment on Wednesday.
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Curtis Hill, president of the local NAACP chapter, said the Republican Party’s efforts to remove David are retaliation for the investigation into Greene.
Greene, who won re-election in November, resigned – for the second time – this month amid allegations that he racially profiled employees within the sheriff’s office, tried to intimidate county leaders and had a sexual relationship with a detective.
“This is exactly why we wanted a full hearing on (the allegations against Greene), so people could be aware of all the evidence,” Hill said. “Maybe the people behind the petition would feel differently.”
Hinson said the GOP is not trying to retaliate against David. The local party has been considering taking steps since early 2022 to ask for David’s removal, he said, and the discussions turned serious this fall.
“It’s not personal,” said Hinson, who campaigned for David. “But we’re not talking about Jon David. We’re talking about a district attorney, the law and things being fair for Columbus County.”
The group says David did not pursue a case of potential election fraud, failed to prosecute dozens of murder cases in a timely manner and falsified evidence against Greene – an allegation Hinson declined to discuss further on Wednesday.
In 2020, the Columbus County Board of Elections filed a complaint with the state about potential election fraud. An employee of a health care organization allegedly tried to pressure a patient with developmental disabilities to vote for Democrat Joe Biden although the patient expressed a desire to vote for Republican Donald Trump.
The State Board of Elections sent the complaint to David, who declined to prosecute the case.
Later that year, David was named in a civil lawsuit that accused him of “alienation of affection” after having an alleged affair with a woman who served as a Bladen County commissioner. The woman’s husband filed the suit.
“There are a lot of things that don’t add up,” Hinson said. “Maybe I’m just paranoid, but a lot of other people are paranoid.”
It’s very rare for district attorneys to be removed from office in North Carolina.
Under state law, citizens can petition the court for a district attorney’s removal. But only Superior Court judges have the authority to remove a district attorney – just as they have sole authority to suspend or remove sheriffs.
As of Wednesday, the local GOP had not filed a court petition outlining its request.
Superior Court Judge Douglas Sasser suspended Greene in early October, at David’s request, shortly after a recorded phone from 2019 was made public. During the call, Greene referred to deputies as “Black bastards” and threatened to fire them.
Greene resigned a few weeks later, at the start of a hearing to determine whether he would be removed from office.
Ahead of the Nov. 8 election, David vowed to refile with the court if Greene won re-election. He did win, with 54% of the vote.
Greene resigned, for the second time, on Jan. 4 at the start of another court hearing.
The State Bureau of Investigation began an investigation into Greene last fall. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina is also investigating, court records show.
During a press conference last week, David said the allegations against Greene were “the tip of the iceberg,” indicating the former sheriff’s legal troubles might not be over.
The controversy surrounding the sheriff’s office has divided this rural county in southeastern North Carolina.
Democrats still outnumber Republicans in Columbus County, as do unaffiliated voters, but many vote for conservative candidates. Only one Democrat won in the county in November.
New sheriff in town
Bill Rogers, who was tapped as interim sheriff after Greene’s first resignation, was appointed by the Columbus County commissioners on Jan. 5 to serve the remainder of Greene’s four-year term.
Rogers, who had worked for Greene at the N.C. Highway Patrol, has been in law enforcement since 1994. He retired on Oct. 1, five days before being appointed as interim sheriff.
“I am going to focus on earning the citizens’ trust by proving this is a new administration that will not tolerate discrimination of any kind,” Rogers said in a statement posted to the sheriff’s office Facebook page on Wednesday.
“The Sheriff’s Office, under my administration, will be held to the highest standards of professionalism and ethics,” he said. “We will serve and protect all Columbus County citizens and do so equally, without regard to one’s race, color, nationality, religion, community, gender or sexual orientation.”