NCSBE hearing into Columbus County sheriff’s race postponed; attorneys allowed to gather more evidence

NCSBE hearing into Columbus County sheriff’s race postponed; attorneys allowed to gather more eviden

RALEIGH, NC (WECT) - A hearing to determine who should be sheriff in Columbus County will not take place on March 4 as previously planned.

The State Board of Elections is giving attorneys more time to gather and submit evidence in support of the protests of Gloria Smith and Nancy Hill. The hearing will take place Monday, March 18, at a time to be announced.

The NCSBE is not required to do this, an order signed by chair Bob Cordle says.

The body could consider the protest in its current form, basically as it was submitted to the Columbus County Board of Elections last year.

However, due to the litigation Lewis Hatcher brought against Jody Greene last month, and the recently-concluded hearing into election fraud in neighboring Bladen County, Cordle’s order says the board is exercising its right to allow more evidence to be submitted.

Attorneys for Smith and Hill asked the board for the continuance, and attorneys for Hatcher agreed to it, though attorneys for Greene opposed the motion.

Because the protest is being submitted to the board as an appeal, the burden of proof is on Smith or Hill, or their attorneys, to prove that a violation, irregularities or misconduct occurred.

However, the state says there is “certain factual overlap” between the Columbus County case and the investigation into the 9th Congressional District.

To that end, the board plans to call its chief investigator and/or Executive Director Kim Strach — both of whom presented evidence and examined witnesses at the 9th district hearing — to the stand.

At the 9th district hearing, a witness said McCrae Dowless, the operative at the center of the investigation, was also working for candidates in Columbus County, including Greene.

The board will be able to ask them questions, as will attorneys for Smith, Hill, Hatcher and Greene.

Attorneys are required to submit all new evidence as well as any subpoena requests by Monday, March 11.

“This Order is entered as a courtesy to counsel in preparing for the hearing with the understanding that extraordinary factors have affected this Matter,” the order concludes, but it also says the extension is not the board saying that attorneys for the protestors did not have sufficient time to collect evidence.

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