Appeal in Columbus County sheriff dispute voluntarily dismissed in Wake County court

Appeal in Columbus County sheriff dispute voluntarily dismissed in Wake County court

WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - The dispute over the race for Columbus County Sheriff has ended — for now.

On Monday, Aug. 12, almost exactly eight months after the the first reports emerged detailing the allegations challenging Republican Jody Greene’s residency, a three-judge panel in Wake County Superior Court dismissed the appeal filed by those unhappy with the North Carolina State Board of Elections’ decision in the matter, at the request of those protesters.

According to attorneys on both sides, those representing Gloria Smith and former Sheriff Lewis Hatcher filed a motion for voluntary dismissal of their appeal without prejudice — ending the dispute for now, but potentially leaving the door open for a new filing in the future.

The action puts to rest the months-long dispute over the race that ended with Greene taking 37 more votes than Hatcher.

“Sheriff Greene was pleased to hear that opposing litigants have taken a dismissal and finally brought the 2018 election to a close,” Greene’s attorney Boyd Worley said Thursday. “Sheriff Greene is excited to be able to serve and protect the citizens of Columbus County without this cloud hanging over the county’s head.”

Attorneys for Hatcher said the former sheriff will release a statement on the matter next week, but at this time it is unclear why they moved for the voluntary dismissal.

According to a report by the UNC School of Government, taking a voluntary dismissal allows a plaintiff to drop a case before resting their arguments if they cannot continue a case for one reason or another.

There are many caveats, but in the most basic cases plaintiffs can re-file within one year.

The NCSBE decided on May 6 to reverse the Columbus County board’s decision on the residency issue, effectively ordering the county board to certify Greene’s victory and allowing Greene to return to actively serving as sheriff.

Other than the outstanding congressional race in neighboring Bladen County, the Columbus County sheriff’s seat was the last 2018 race in Southeastern North Carolina to be finalized.

WECT’s Ann McAdams contributed to this report.

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