COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Documents unearthed through a subpoena appear to show contradictory information about when Columbus County sheriff candidate Jody Greene lived in that county. The concern over Greene’s address is a central part of an argument challenging his legitimacy to serve as sheriff there.
A Feb. 7 letter from Joseph Dugdale, chief deputy general counsel for the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, discusses Greene’s address on file with the Highway Patrol while he was employed there. In 2016, Highway Patrol records indicate Greene lived in Robeson County but, according to a sworn affidavit for a recent lawsuit, Greene says he lived in Columbus County at that time.
The letter from Dugdale, written to Columbus County resident Calvin Norton in response to a subpoena for a different lawsuit challenging Greene’s eligibility to serve as sheriff, states the Highway Patrol is required to have a current physical address for state troopers in their Computer Assisted Dispatch database. The only CAD records Highway Patrol has on file for Greene’s address indicated that when he was a state trooper from January 2014 to April 2017, Greene was living at his wife’s house in Lumberton.
On April 2, 2017, Highway Patrol records indicate Greene’s physical address had changed to a farm in Cerro Gordo. It’s the same Columbus County address Greene used as his primary address when he filed to run for sheriff. Under North Carolina law, a sheriff must live in the county where they serve for one year immediately prior to the election.
While under oath on Jan. 28, Greene gave a different account of where he has lived for the last several years.
Specifically, he swore that in 2016 he lived in Columbus County, not at the Lumberton address the Highway Patrol has in its records. His affidavit reads:
“I purchased the property located [on] Page Mill Road, Cerro Gordo, Columbus County, North Carolina, from my family on November 29, 2011 for the purposes of making it my domicile and permanent residence.
After getting electrical power to the property in 2012, I began building up/constructing a foundation for the home I intended to build on the property and access roads for the same. I began this project in earnest in the summer of 2012 and continued until approximately 2013.
In 2013, I married my then-fiancé Angie Rouse. We purchased a beach cottage in North Myrtle Beach, SC. At the time we purchased the beach cottage it was in need of substantial repair. As a result, my efforts in building up [the property on] Page Mill Road were delayed for a time while I personally began doing repair work on the beach cottage.
In February 2015, I was able to return to my building efforts at my … Page Mill Road domicile, whereupon I moved a camper onto the property where I would stay during the work week with the NCSHP. I often spent weekends and vacation time at the beach cottage.
In 2016, I was promoted to First Sergeant with NCSHP, whereupon I was transferred to Hoke and Moore counties. Due to the close geographic proximity to … Page Mill Road, I did not need to change residence in order to accept the position and was able to continue residing at my Columbus County domicile.”
So, Greene swore he was living in Columbus County before his 2016 promotion by the Highway Patrol, and yet their records of his physical address at the time of his promotion indicate otherwise. We reached out to Greene for an explanation, and he said the Highway Patrol CAD records are wrong.
“Rarely does the CAD address match your permanent address. It’s a data entry issue that I have no control over,” Greene explained, adding that the CAD system was “antiquated” and it was his supervisor’s responsibility to keep his records current.
When asked about Greene’s claims that the residency discrepancy was simply a clerical error, the Highway Patrol said their system functions properly.
“Although our CAD system has been in use for many years, we still use it for many vital patrol functions and stand by its legitimacy. If there would be a discrepancy between a member’s address being accurate or not, it would not have been due to the system itself,” Highway Patrol Sgt. Christopher Knox told WECT.
State Highway Patrol policy says “a member’s supervisor is responsible for ensuring that personnel under their supervision have a correct physical address and telephone number listed on the Computer Assisted Dispatch system.”
Keeping track of an employee’s physical address is especially important for the Highway Patrol. Employees need to be close to their patrol area in the event of an emergency. Also, driving far outside of an employee’s assigned district puts significant wear and tear on a trooper’s car. So there are strict guidelines on where troopers can live.
Those guidelines still raise more questions about Greene’s actual place of residence over the last several years. If Greene “continue[d] residing” in Columbus County as he claims after being transferred to Hoke and Moore counties, it makes little logistical sense, especially since his wife owned a home in Lumberton, which is much closer to the Hoke/Moore patrol district.
From Greene’s property in Columbus County, it’s a 79-mile drive to the Hoke/Moore Highway Patrol Headquarters in Aberdeen. Mapquest estimates it’s an hour and 25 minute drive. That division does have a substation in Raeford, but Raeford is still 65 miles from Cerro Gordo and takes over an hour to drive by car.
At the time, Highway Patrol’s residency policy required troopers to live within 20 miles of the county line for the district they were assigned to patrol. It’s about 50 miles from Cerro Gordo to the Hoke County line.
If Greene is telling the truth about living in Columbus County since 2012, it also isn’t clear why the Highway Patrol would have the address for Greene’s wife’s Lumberton home in their CAD database at all. He makes no mention of ever living there in his sworn affidavit, and yet Highway Patrol has the Lumberton address for Greene listed in their CAD system over a period of years.
A recent WECT report tracked Greene’s fuel log with the Highway Patrol, highlighting unusual patterns that also brought his residency claims into questions. From April 3, 2017, to February 25, 2018, First Sgt. Greene was stationed in Columbus County and claimed to live in Cerro Gordo, but routinely filled up in Lumberton. It’s well over the county line and nearly 30 minutes from his reported residence, but the highway patrol fuel station in Robeson County is less than 2 miles from the home owned by Greene’s wife in Lumberton.
While the CAD records would lend credence to Greene’s claim of residency in Columbus County well in advance of a deadline to run for office there, it’s hard to make sense of the contradictory documents concerning his residence. It’s also unclear if the Highway Patrol will look into this address discrepancy, considering violations of the residency policy prompted a state audit in recent years.
In addition to the questions raised by the fuel logs and the Highway Patrol address records, WECT also reported there is no record of any building permits or water and septic lines on the property where Greene claims to live in Cerro Gordo. Google Earth images over a series of years show no clear evidence of any foundation under construction on the property.
On February 13, Greene stepped aside as acting sheriff in Columbus County. Greene received 37 more votes than Lewis Hatcher during the November election, but he has yet to receive a certificate of election because of pending election protests and state officials say he should not have been sworn in. Greene’s place of residence, as well as an unusually high number of missing absentee ballots, are the basis, in part, for the pending elections challenge.
Now that the hearing over the disputed NC-9 election has concluded, and the State Board of Elections unanimously called for a new congressional election due to evidence of election fraud in neighboring Bladen County, the state can now turn its attention to the Columbus County Sheriff’s election protests.
They expect to announce a date for that hearing later this week.