MEETING OVER: Showdown in Bladen - WECT, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

MEETING OVER: Showdown in Bladen

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Source: Bladen Online Source: Bladen Online

BLADEN COUNTY, NC (WECT) – Residents in Bladen County were given a chance to speak about the recent controversy surrounding interim Sheriff Earl Storms Friday.

Thirteen people stepped up to the microphone, many of them angry with the way Storms has used his position. 

The newly appointed sheriff of Bladen County, Earl Storms, took his oath of office Tuesday morning and hired back all but five detectives and deputies. 

Storms said everyone had to re-apply for their job and four of the five did not fill out applications.  Sheriff Storms told us the fifth person, Chief Deputy Phillip Little, decided to retire.

Some commissioners said they wanted to remove the interim sheriff, but they don't have the authority to fire Storms.  Beyond asking the sheriff to resign, the board has no leverage under state law to force him out.

The board had hoped Storms would bring the department together after a divisive Democratic primary last month. But Storms' first act this week was to dismiss Lt. Eric Bryan, the losing candidate in the primary runoff, along with four of his supporters in the agency.

Commissioners held a meeting at the County Courthouse Friday evening at 5:30 to gather input from residents.

"I ask him to resign tonight because it would be the right thing to do," one man told the crowd. 

Others said they supported Storms. 

After hearing from the residents, commissioners held an executive session to discuss what they heard during the meeting.

Chairman Billy Ray Pait told us he asked the commissioners to vote for a measure to investigate Storms, but he did not get a majority.

Storms was asked to appear at the meeting, but he did not show up.

"He lied to us, just like he lied to everybody else," said Chairman Pait.  "He promised us he would be here."

Commissioners cannot do anything at this point, unless Storms decides to step down from his post. 

Some people at the meeting are now calling for a state investigation into the sheriff's actions, including resident Ruth Dockery Vermillion. 

"I'm not satisfied with the outcome that they couldn't even get the support to investigate and see what has been going on,"  Vermillion said.  "We the people have asked that this be checked out.  Do we have to take it higher?  Do we have to take it to the state level?  Because we can call senators.  We can call Congressmen.  We can call Bev Perdue." 

WECT's Claire Simms was at the meeting providing live updates via Twitter.

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