COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Columbus County Sheriff Jody Greene has questioned the integrity of this news organization since the reporting last week of a complaint filed with the North Carolina State Board of Elections over whether he actually lives in the county.
If proven accurate, failure to meet the residency requirement could affect whether Greene can serve as the sheriff of Columbus County. State law requires the sheriff to reside in the county in which he or she serves for one year prior to the election.
There will be no immediate resolution in this concern as the state board is consumed with a growing investigation of the 9th Congressional District. A state spokesperson said Monday the earliest the complaint on the sheriff would be considered is after the January 11 hearing on the issues in Bladen County.
For all intents and purposes, there is no paper trail showing someone lives on the property on Page Mill Road in Cerro Gordo, where Jody Greene stated was his primary residence when signing up to run for sheriff earlier this year.
Last week, Sheriff Greene said he has a “dwelling” on the property. We found only a camper in our initial investigation, which Greene said last week was for his dogs. Since the initial story was published, Greene and his wife both told competing news organization WWAY that the camper is their primary residence.
Public records indicate the Greenes own a property that is being taxed as a secondary residence in Cherry Grove, SC. Tax records in Robeson County, NC also show a property in the name of Greene’s wife, Angela.
“I think he does have a home in Robeson County because he was a first sergeant there, he had to live in the county. And since he’s become sheriff I think all that’s going to change. All this will be fine if we just leave it alone,” Columbus County Commissioner Edwin Russ said. Just last week Russ switched his political party affiliation to Republican from Democrat, joining the same party as Greene.
While the Greenes say they live on the Cerro Gordo property, dogs were present at the home in Robeson County Monday, along with a Christmas decoration out front proclaiming “The Greene’s.”
There are few records indicating the Greenes live in Columbus County. While property tax records show Sheriff Greene is paid up on three properties in Columbus County, there are no records for personal property tax on the camper or any living structure on the property.
Duke Energy indicates there is no account for the address listed as the sheriff’s primary residence. County officials confirmed last week there is also no trash service. The only public records for this property include a permit to build a septic system under the previous owner, however, there are no follow up records indicating completion of the project or an inspection of the system. An employee with the tax office said they were unaware anyone was living on the property.
Additionally, the claim to be living in a camper is also problematic under North Carolina code, which indicates campers are not to be used as a permanent dwelling. County Economic Development Director Gary Lanier, who has done extensive work in planning and zoning, said it’s a safety issue for these vehicles since they aren’t equipped to handle high-level winds.
“Not qualified as a permanent residence for living day in, day out," Gary Lanier said.
Lanier said if the county became aware of an issue, it could send a code enforcement officer to check out the property. However, in conversations with multiple agencies Monday, it is unclear if that will happen. Columbus County Manager Mike Stephen said they are not investigating the sheriff’s residency.
“Not at this time. No, at this time, Jody Greene is the sheriff of Columbus County, and he’s being treated as such by the administration,” Stephen said.
Commissioner Russ confirmed Greene lives in a camper and says he has no issue with it.
“Well, I’ve had people pick at me about where he stays at, I said ‘look he’s got a place in Cerro Gordo.’ It’s just like I do, I have a place in Tennessee that I go to. I could retire and stay there but I don’t got nowhere to put all my junk. So, I mean, it’s a 41-foot fifth wheel camper and he’s got a motorhome. People live in those motorhomes.”
Greene has become frustrated with WECT since the publication of our story last week, taking to Facebook to post comments about the initial story that he characterized as “fake news.”
Over the weekend, Greene also claimed three commissioners, Trent Burroughs, Buddy Byrd and Charles McDowell wanted him removed from his position, but walked that claim back in an update after speaking with Burroughs and McDowell. Greene later deleted the post.
“We all get a little hotheaded sometimes. Myself, I don’t really think he should’ve done that. But that’s him. Politics, you just don’t do things like that. Being an elected official in a county commissioner I’m going to work with him, forget about the friendship and do what’s right for the citizens of the county,” Russ said.
Russ said he feels confident Greene will purchase a home in the county now that he is sheriff.