Columbus County sheriff paid group under investigation for NC9 election fraud

Hundreds gathered at the Columbus County Courthouse Monday morning as Jody Greene was...
Hundreds gathered at the Columbus County Courthouse Monday morning as Jody Greene was officially sworn in as the County Sheriff.(WECT)
Updated: Dec. 10, 2018 at 9:25 PM EST
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COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WECT) - While eyes are on Bladen County, the number of candidates who gave money to the business implicated in an election fraud investigation continues to grow.

According to campaign finance documents, the election committee for Columbus County Sheriff Jody Greene paid Red Dome Group $2,500 in August and $1,800 in late October for “consulting for the campaign.”

Red Dome was subpoenaed Friday by the state board of elections, and is linked to McCrae Dowless, a Bladen County resident and convicted felon who has been accused of harvesting and tampering with absentee by mail ballots.

Greene defeated incumbent Lewis Hatcher by 34 votes, a result that was only certified after a hand recount the county needed the state’s assistance to complete.

The accusations in Bladen County originated from a suspicious distribution of absentee by mail ballots, but Greene lost the absentee vote in Columbus County, taking 93 by mail votes to Hatcher’s 243.

WECT reached out to Greene on Monday afternoon, and he confirmed paying the amounts to Red Dome, but said he wasn’t sure what the company did for him and that he wasn’t aware of anything illegal.

Greene said he contracted Red Dome to create a campaign strategy, run the social media campaign and send out mailers. He also said the group was supposed to be conducting absentee get-out-the-vote activities.

However, Greene said after the initial contact in August at the state Republican convention, he barely heard from the company except by email and a phone call from Dowless.

Greene said he spoke to Dowless on the phone, but directed him to another person in the campaign. Greene said he told Dowless his focus was “politicking” and not the details of that agreement.

Other than that interaction, Greene said he knew little about Dowless.

“I haven’t dealt with him. We did not hire McCrae Dowless,” he said, clarifying that the contact at Red Dome his campaign worked with was Andy Yates, who runs the company.

Election officials, however, said Dowless was frequently at the board of elections office during the campaign season, and asked for updates on the poll book — a public document that shows who has voted and where — and the report of absentee voters by precinct.

Green said ultimately he was not happy with what Red Dome did for his campaign.

“The company did not do what they said they were going to do for us by any stretch of the imagination," he said.

He said Red Dome did not provide the social media and speech writing help it promised, and when Greene received the second invoice for $1,800, he wasn’t even sure what it was for.

Records show none of the other countywide candidates paid Red Dome or Dowless during the 2018 campaign cycle.

Greene is the second sheriff in Southeastern North Carolina with ties to Red Dome.

Last week, Bladen County Sheriff James McVicker’s campaign was subpoenaed by the state board, along with that of Mark Harris, who is the unofficial winner in the race for North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District.

When asked if he is concerned about the investigation into Red Dome’s activity during the 2018 campaign season, Greene said he has no qualms about his relationship with the firm.

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