By Ivey Schofield
Jody Greene, who resigned as Columbus County sheriff two weeks ago after facing allegations of racism, corruption and having a sexual relationship with a detective, was reelected Tuesday, according to unofficial results.
Greene won with 54.26% of the vote to serve a second term as the county’s first Republican sheriff, unofficial results from the North Carolina State Board of Elections show. His Democratic challenger, Jason Soles, got 45.74% of the vote.
But questions remain about Greene’s future as the top law enforcement officer in this southeastern North Carolina county.
Local district attorney Jon David, who filed a court petition last month asking a North Carolina judge to remove Greene from office, said he would re-file if Greene won on Nov. 8.
At David’s request, a judge suspended Greene from office on Oct. 4, days after news surfaced about a recorded phone call from 2019 in which Greene called deputies “Black bastards” and threatened to fire Black employees.
In court documents, David also said Greene had a sexual relationship with a detective in the sheriff’s office, fired a Black sergeant and tried to intimidate and influence county commissioners.
Greene resigned on Oct. 24 at the start of a court hearing to determine whether he would be removed from office. He said he wanted to focus on his reelection campaign.
On Election Day, Columbus was one of five counties across the state monitored by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Last week, the state Board of Elections said it was tracking two complaints of potential intimidation of poll workers in Columbus County. In one instance, according to the board, an “observer” followed poll workers at a one-stop early-voting site to their car. In another, someone photographed or filmed workers.
In a sworn affidavit on Oct. 18, Soles said that he received numerous threats and harassment from several supporters of Greene after he announced he would run for sheriff.
Franklin Thurman, who is Black and has served as chairman of the Columbus County Democratic Party for the past five years, said in a sworn affidavit on Oct. 20 that he felt intimidated at a kick-off event for Soles’ campaign. He said Aaron Herring, chief deputy of the sheriff’s office, told him that about nine sheriff’s cars were parked in front of the building where the event was being held.
Greene and his supporters have criticized Soles for recording the phone call in 2019, when Soles worked at the sheriff’s office. Some also questioned why Soles did not release the recording to the media until five weeks before the election.
In a Facebook post, Greene denied the allegations against him and apologized for the language he used during the call.
The sheriff’s office is also the target of a probe by the State Bureau of Investigation. David asked the SBI in late September to begin an investigation of potential obstruction of justice.
David did not say what prompted the obstruction allegation, but he made the request shortly after the recorded phone call was made public.
“You fought as hard as I did. It wasn’t easy. We have endured things we shouldn’t have,” Soles said Wednesday in a Facebook post. “The election may be over, but the race isn’t finished yet. We have so much more to do for Columbus County.”
On Facebook, Greene shared a simple message: “Thank you all!!!!!!”