Amid suspension and petition for removal, could Jody Greene be re-elected?
COLUMBUS COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - Jody Greene is suspended from serving as Columbus County Sheriff pending the outcome of a hearing on a petition to remove him from office. District Attorney Jon David filed the petition Tuesday, citing corruption and willful misconduct or maladministration in office.
The petition comes after a recording in which Greene can be heard making racist comments about his black staff members, calling for them to be fired.
Greene was elected as Columbus County Sheriff in 2018 and is running for re-election in November. Despite his suspension, Greene will remain on the ballot. Election law experts are curious, however, if he can serve again if a judge grants the petition to remove Greene from office.
The North Carolina General Statute says a sheriff can be removed from office for willful or habitual neglect or refusal to perform the duties of his office, for willful misconduct or maladministration in office, for corruption, for extortion, upon conviction of a felony, for intoxication, or upon conviction of being intoxicated. David cites two of these qualifiers in his petition to remove Greene from the Sheriff’s office.
“What exactly does that mean? Does that mean removed from office for the term currently, then being served? Or does it mean removed permanently from office? I don’t think that the statute makes that perfectly clear and I am unaware of any appellate court decisions interpreting that question in the statute,” says Bob Joyce, a professor at the UNC School of Government.
Joyce says the removal of an elected officer from office is a rare occurrence.
“I think, probably, the better argument is it means removal for this term,” Joyce says. “And if the voters elect the person to the office in the future, then, if he is to be removed, it would have to be for new cause for something else that comes up.”
The statute also says a candidate is only disqualified from running if they are under 21, are convicted of a felony, or do not live in the county in which they are running.
The SBI is currently investigating the Columbus County Sheriff’s Office for obstruction of justice.
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