WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - WECT has been analyzing the fuel logs of acting Columbus County Sheriff Jody Greene in the midst of an ongoing dispute over whether he actually lives there, and if he’s qualified under law to serve as sheriff. The fuel logs are from 2017 and 2018 when Greene served as a Highway Patrol sergeant.
From April 3, 2017, to February 25, 2018, First Sgt. Greene was stationed in Columbus County and claimed to live on property in Cerro Gordo.
However, public records indicate he routinely filled up in neighboring Robeson County, well across the county line and nearly 30 minutes from his reported residence.
Excluding fill-ups for special assignments and training, one out of every three times Greene filled up his patrol car he did so in Lumberton. We asked Highway Patrol officials if there is a reasonable, work-related explanation why Greene would have been routinely fueling his vehicle in a county where he was neither assigned to work nor claiming residency. Officials said they can’t speculate as to why Greene filled up in a neighboring county.
This happened at a time when the Highway Patrol was under intense scrutiny for troopers putting an excessive number of miles on their vehicles. The state auditor found a number of troopers were living outside of their assigned duty area in violation of Highway Patrol policy, and using their patrol cars to drive to and from work. The state auditor found this to be a waste of public money, burning fuel and putting unnecessary wear and tear on public safety vehicles.
Shortly after the audit was published, the Highway Patrol instituted a crackdown on troopers living outside of the counties they were assigned to patrol.
Greene was not one of the troopers singled out in the audit, but days after the Highway Patrol cracked down on its residency policy, Greene was transferred in April 2017 from first sergeant in Hoke and Moore counties to first sergeant in Columbus County. According to an affidavit Greene recently filed in a lawsuit disputing his residency, Greene kept a camper at his property in Cerro Gordo where he “would stay during the work week with the NCSHP.
“Due to the close geographic proximity of (Greene’s property in Cerro Gordo), I did not need to change residence in order to accept the position and was able to continue residing at my Columbus County domicile,” Greene explained in the affidavit.
One could arguably conclude the timing of Greene’s transfer to Columbus County would add credibility to Greene claiming Cerro Gordo as his primary residence. Highway Patrol officials declined to provide any documentation that Greene requested a waiver to live outside his assigned counties, which was required at that time, citing state personnel law.
Highway Patrol employees running for office are prohibited from patrolling in the communities where they are up for election. After filing to run for sheriff of Columbus County on Feb. 13, 2018, Greene was transferred by the Highway Patrol to Robeson County but he was in an odd predicament since state law also requires a person serving as sheriff to live in the county where they serve for one year prior to the election.
Highway Patrol fuel records indicate Greene started filling up more often in Lumberton after being assigned to Robeson County. From Feb. 26-Nov. 21, 2018, Greene filled up his Highway Patrol car 50 times in Lumberton, and five times at the Highway Patrol station in Whiteville.
While Greene grew up in Columbus County, he moved away in 1995 for work. According to North Carolina voting records, he was a registered voter in Robeson County from 1998-2010 before switching his voter registration back to Columbus County.
His ties to Robeson County remained strong, and were made stronger by his marriage to a woman from Lumberton in 2013.
While Greene has had a camper on his property in Cerro Gordo for several years, there are no water or sewer lines, no trash service, and no record of electric service at the address Greene used to file for office with the Board of Elections. Greene’s wife owns a home in Lumberton, less than two miles from the Highway Patrol duty station where Greene filled up his patrol car 26 times while stationed and allegedly living in Columbus County.
Questions about whether he lived in Columbus County leading up to the elections prompted a formal elections protest which is pending before the state board. There is also a lawsuit in progress filed by Lewis Hatcher, Greene’s opponent in the sheriff’s race. Hatcher claims he should still be sheriff in part because Greene does not have a legal residence in the county as the law requires.
Hatcher and Greene spent Thursday in mediation. At the time of this publication, there is a hearing scheduled in their case on Friday in Columbus County Court, and a bench trial the following Monday to determine the rightful sheriff of Columbus County until elections protests can be settled.