Seven months after November election, Columbus County expected to certify results of disputed sheriff’s race

Updated: Jun. 12, 2019 at 12:07 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - More than seven months after the November general election, a Wake County judge has denied a motion to delay certification of the disputed sheriff’s race in Columbus County, meaning the local Board of Elections can certify Jody Greene’s election as sheriff of the county.

Wednesday’s ruling is the latest in a contentious saga over the sheriff seat in Columbus County.

Shortly after the November election, in which Greene narrowly beat incumbent Sheriff Lewis Hatcher, Columbus County resident Gloria Smith filed a formal complaint, alleging irregularities at various polling locations on election day. Smith later amended her complaint to include concerns that Greene did not live in the county for a year prior to the election, as required by state law.

Smith’s protest was quickly dismissed by the Columbus County Board of Elections, however, Smith appealed the county board’s decision to the State Board of Elections. Despite the pending appeal and lack of a certificate of election, Greene was sworn in as sheriff.

In March, the state board sent Smith’s appeal back to the county board, asking it to hold an evidentiary hearing on the matter. Following a two-day hearing in April, the county board voted 3-2 that Greene did not live in the county leading up to the election.

Greene’s camp appealed that decision to the state board, which ultimately reversed the county board’s ruling and ordered a certificate of election be issued.

Last week, attorneys for Smith appealed the state board’s ruling to Wake County Superior Court and filed a motion for a stay to prevent certification of the election, which resulted in Wednesday’s hearing.

Following Judge Bryan Collins’ ruling, the Columbus County Board of Elections is expected to certify the election Thursday morning, barring any unforeseen circumstances, according to Boyd Worley, Greene’s attorney.

“We appreciate Judge Collins’ diligence in reviewing the case,” Worley said when reached for comment. “He made the appropriate decision. This was a significant step in finalizing the November election of Sheriff Greene and we look forward to the next chapter.”

Smith’s appeal of the state board’s decision is ongoing.

“We are disappointed in the lack of a stay but we believe we are correct on the law and will ultimately prevail,” Ralph Frasier, Smith’s attorney, said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

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