Commissioners decline to pay sheriff’s unauthorized helicopter repair bills

Two helicopters awarded to the Columbus County Sheriff's Office.
Two helicopters awarded to the Columbus County Sheriff's Office.(Columbus County Sheriff's Office)
Published: Aug. 26, 2020 at 3:33 PM EDT
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WHITEVILLE, N.C. (WECT) - Columbus County commissioners put their foot down, refusing to pay the bill for recent repair work done on the sheriff’s department helicopter. County officials say Sheriff Jody Greene failed to follow proper purchasing protocol before having $7,677 worth of work done on a helicopter that had been donated to the department.

During their meeting in August, commissioners indicated this was a recurring problem with the sheriff’s department. They said they had made an exception before and paid the sheriff’s unauthorized bill, but were not inclined to do so again.

“I think there is a protocol established so things like this don’t happen. If you follow the protocol you get the proper requisition, you get it approved prior to making the request, then you don’t have these kind of problems,” Commissioner Trent Burroughs explained of why he voted against paying the bill. “When everybody goes on a tangent and does their own thing, there’s just no coordination or organization, there’s no control. And that’s what the problem is.”

Commissioner Ricky Bullard made a motion to pay the bill, despite the sheriff’s failure to get a purchasing order in advance. Bullard reasoned that the multi-million dollar helicopter had been donated to the county, and it seemed to him a “no-brainer” to pay the maintenance fees since the county got the aircraft at no cost. Commissioner Jerome McMillan seconded the motion to pay the bill.

But the vote failed 4-3 when commissioners Burroughs, Buddy Byrd, Charles McDowell and James Prevatte voted against it. They said that when the sheriff initially proposed the idea of accepting two donated helicopters for his department, commissioners decided the estimated $295,000 cost to maintain the fleet was unaffordable.

While Bullard mentioned the helicopter in question was worth $10-12 million, and the maintenance cost was small by comparison, the sheriff’s office had previously reported that the two helicopters they obtained were worth a combined $92,000. They were manufactured in the 1970s and were previously used by the military.

Commissioners noted the repair bills would eventually need to be paid because the work had been performed, but for the time being, they have elected not to pay because the repairs were unauthorized.

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