Lawsuit claims former sergeant was fired from Columbus Co. Sheriff’s Office because of his race

Former sergeant Melvin Campbell has filed a federal wrongful termination lawsuit against the Columbus County Sheriff's Office.
Published: Jan. 23, 2023 at 12:16 PM EST
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COLUMBUS COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - Former sergeant Melvin Campbell has filed a federal wrongful termination lawsuit against former Columbus County Sheriff Jody Greene, Sheriff Bill Rogers and the sheriff’s office itself.

Filed on Friday, Jan. 20, the complaint says that Campbell was employed from Dec. 2016 to Jan. 2019 as a sergeant for the sheriff’s office. In 2016, Campbell was sworn in as deputy sheriff under Lewis Hatcher, the first Black sheriff of Columbus County.

The complaint says that Greene demoted Black employees on the command staff after taking office. Clementine Brown, the only Black woman on the command staff and a 20-year employee of the office, was demoted from her position as captain of the detention center in Jan. 2019 and terminated in 2020, according to the complaint.

It then mentions that Jeremy Barber, the only Black man on the command staff, was demoted from a lieutenant in the investigations division to a deputy in the civil division. The complaint describes the phone call between Greene and Jason Soles that took place in early 2019, which was later reported by WECT.

“I ain’t gonna have it. I’m gonna cut the snake’s fucking head off. Period. . . And Melvin Campbell is as big a snake as Lewis Hatcher ever dared to be. Every Black that I know, you need to fire him to start with, he’s a snake,” Greene said in the call.

The complaint claims that Campbell never received any discipline or warnings about his performance while he was working under Greene, and that Greene terminated Campbell because he is Black.

“It kind of shocked me,” Campbell told WECT last year in regards to the recordings. “You know, I mean, that that came out his mouth. I thought we was friends. But with friends like that, who needs enemies?”

It also mentions the State Bureau of Investigations investigation into the office, the suspension of grant funding from the NC Governor’s Highway Safety Program and Greene’s two resignations after petitions for his removal were filed.

“There was no legitimate nondiscriminatory reason to terminate Plaintiff Campbell’s employment in or around January 2019,” the complaint states.

You can read the complaint in full below.