For the second time in three months a North Carolina sheriff who was caught on tape calling his Black colleagues untrustworthy “Black bastards” and “snakes” has resigned from his law enforcement post.
Jody Greene announced his decision to resign Wednesday through his attorney Michael Mills, according to local newspaper The News & Observer, just before a court hearing to remove him from office was about to begin. Mills explained that while his client maintains that he is innocent of the misconduct he’s accused of, he was choosing to resign because the ongoing challenges to his right to serve had taken a financial and emotional toll.
“There comes a time in life that you have to choose happiness over something that you know will be nothing but a constant battle,” Greene elaborated in a Facebook post on Thursday. “A lot of changes have been made under my administration and I hope that they will be an asset to the citizens of Columbus County and the Columbus County Sheriff’s Office. I am thankful for the last 4 years!”
Greene first became embroiled in controversy last September after a local news outlet published audio of his racist tirade against Black deputies recorded during a phone call to the then-interim sheriff in February 2019. In the audio, Greene accuses the deputies of siding with and leaking information to the county’s Black incumbent candidate, then-Sheriff Lewis Hatcher.
“I’m sick of these Black bastards,” Greene can be heard saying, before threatening to fire them. “I’m going to clean house and be done with it. And we’ll start from there.”
At the time, Green and Hatcher were waiting for the results of their incredibly close election, which Greene would eventually win by just 34 votes.
This week marked the second time Greene has resigned in the nick of time. In October 2022, he submitted a letter of resignation just as a petition to remove him from office was being heard in a Columbus County courtroom packed with residents who were outraged by his racist comments. That scene repeated itself at another hearing on Wednesday, when his attorney told a Superior County judge that Greene would be submitting his resignation, essentially rendering the scheduled petition for his removal moot.
The last-minute concession meant Greene could continue his campaign for reelection without issue. He was reelected in November, winning 54 percent of the vote despite an ongoing criminal probe into the tape by the North Carolina Bureau of Investigation. Shortly after being sworn in on Dec. 29, however, District Attorney Jon David kept his promise to begin petition efforts that would prevent Greene from serving his full term.
Local residents were split on Greene’s decision this week, according to local North Carolina NPR affiliate WHQR. While around two dozen white residents, who were in the gallery to support Green at Wednesday’s removal hearing, called the petition a witch hunt motivated by politics. Meanwhile, many Black residents seemed relieved by the resignation, WHQR reported. Many of the Black residents however, said they were worried that corruption would remain a problem in the office even if Greene was no longer in power.
“It’s always been like this,” one woman told the outlet. “It’s not changing because of this.”
Greene’s most recent resignation leaves Columbus County with a major problem: Since Greene quit before he was officially disqualified from the post, it is unclear if he could technically be reappointed to the position by the county’s board of commissioners, or if he could technically run once more in four years’ time. Superior County Judge Douglass Sasser, who presided over Wednesday’s hearing, did not make a decision on the matter yet, according to District Attorney David.
“He made very clear to the state that I would always have the remedy of filing a motion to remove and disqualify even Deputy Jody Greene, and we will certainly keep an open mind to do that,” David said. “This office has been very consistent with where we stand on this issue. We simply do not feel as though Jody Greene should be someone who ever carries a badge again.”
In Greene’s absence, the position will be filled by sheriff's office Captain Kevin Norris, who will serve as interim sheriff.
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