Recorded call raises questions if sheriff threatened job - WECT, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Recorded call raises questions if sheriff threatened job

Former school resource officer Josh Smith said he received a call from Sheriff Mark Gammons on May 10. Former school resource officer Josh Smith said he received a call from Sheriff Mark Gammons on May 10.

A recorded phone call obtained by the Channel 4 I-Team raises questions if Macon County Sheriff Mark Gammons threatened his deputy's job because the deputy's father supported Gammon's opponent in the election.

Former school resource officer Josh Smith said he received a call from Gammons on May 10 after Smith's father put a sign up in his own yard supporting Gammon's opponent, Butch Avera.

Smith said he started recording the call when he began to fear that his father's political leanings would get him fired.

Early in the conversation, Smith can he heard saying, "I just don't want my job in jeopardy because of what my dad does."

"I'm gonna remember this, OK?" Gammon responded.

Later on, Gammons can be heard telling Smith to pass along a message to his father.

"You tell him vote for that [expletive] son of a [expletive]," Gammons said. "You (Smith) better remember who gives you your job."

The Channel 4 I-Team was only given a copy of the audio after Smith, former school resource officer Phil Harper and correctional officers Jimmy Hardin and Richard Keller were fired on Aug. 8, the day after Gammons won the election.

"He (Gammons) called me and threatened my job because my dad would not support him," Smith said.

Several times in the conversation, Smith can be heard saying he was not responsible for his father's political views.

"That's what I don't understand. My daddy is doing this, not me. We're two different people," Smith said.

"I'll tell you what. If my daddy was doing it, I would tell him to get his head out of his [expletive], ‘cause I'm getting about $36,000 a year from the sheriff in the county. You tell him (Smith's father) he needs to find you a $36,000 a year," Gammons said.

"So you're gonna fire me because of what he's doing?" Smith said.

"I'm not firing you. Did I say I was firing you?" Gammons said.

When Smith and the others got their termination letters in their mailboxes, the notices only said their services were no longer needed.

Channel 4's repeated phone calls to Gammons were not returned by deadline.

The firings come a month after a Channel 4 I-Team investigation that revealed another audio recording, this one made in March, of a meeting with the sheriff and his staff. That recording raised questions if the sheriff was telling his staff to either support his campaign, or lose their jobs.

In one segment of that March recording, the sheriff can be heard saying, "If you can't support me, that's fine. It's hard to support you and sign your check … you try to take food out of my mouth, why should I not worry about taking food out of your mouth."

Gammons told the Channel 4 I-Team in July that he was only warning his employees not to campaign for his opponent during work hours and that he was not going to fire anyone if they didn't support his campaign.

"It wasn't to threaten them and saying, ‘Go do this for me or I'm going to fire you.' That was not the intention," Gammons said.

But Smith said he now has his doubts, especially after replaying the conversation and hearing a certain exchange at the end of the conversation.

Smith can be heard saying, "I know you're upset, I just wish you'd talk to him (Smith's dad) about it, not me, because I didn't do it."

"Hell no, I ain't talking to him. He made his little bed, let him lay in it. But I'm going to give you a fair warning: I don't know what you mean to do from this point on, you make up what side of the fence you're on, and get off the teeter totter, and jump on Butch's side or my side. That's all I'm asking of you," Gammons responded.

Neither Smith, nor any of the three fired employees, provided the Channel 4 I-Team the audio of that recorded meeting in March.

The employees' attorney said they met with the TBI and explained their concerns. A spokesman for the TBI said they would investigate at the request of the district attorney.

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