Supreme Court Affirms Sheriffs’ Right To Select Employees

On January 29, 2016 the Supreme Court of North Carolina issued opinions in three cases that are of critical importance to the Office of Sheriff and the citizens of North Carolina. In these unanimous opinions, authored by Justice Robert H. Edmunds, Jr., the court settled the issue of an elected sheriff’s ability to hire and retain deputies, and other policy making employees, that are loyal to and supportive of the sheriff’s administration. The Supreme Court recognized the indispensable need for a sheriff to select deputies that support the elected sheriff’s policies.
These three cases are McLaughlin and Stanley v. Bailey, __ N.C. __ (2016) (163A15, January 29, 2016); Young v. Bailey, __ N.C. __ (2016) (355PA14-2, January 29, 2016); and Lloyd v. Bailey, __ N.C. __ (2016) (181PA15, January 29, 2016).
In these three cases, four justice officers (detention officers and deputies) brought wrongful dismissal lawsuits against former Sheriff “Chipp” Bailey (Mecklenburg County) alleging they were improperly fired for not supporting Sheriff Bailey during the 2010 election. The Supreme Court of North Carolina heard oral arguments in these cases on December 7, 2015 at a hearing that was attended by many North Carolina Sheriffs in support of former Sheriff Bailey. The issues that were to be decided by the Supreme Court were whether N.C. Gen. Stat. § 153A-99 (County Employee Political Activity) applied to the employees of a sheriff’s office and whether the North Carolina Constitution allows a sheriff to consider a person’s political loyalty when determining whom to employ as a deputy sheriff.
The Supreme Court of North Carolina unanimously ruled in favor of former Sheriff Bailey in all three of these lawsuits. Two critical decisions were made by the Supreme Court in these opinions:
• A sheriff’s office is not a program or department of county government. Therefore, deputy sheriffs and other employees of a sheriff’s office are not county employees for purposes of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 153A-99 (County Employee Political Activity) and are not governed by any of the provisions of that statute.
• Additionally, the Supreme Court held that deputy sheriffs could be lawfully dismissed by a sheriff based on political considerations. The Supreme Court said, in part, “…by standing in the elected sheriff’s shoes, a deputy sheriff fills a role in which loyalty to the elected sheriff is necessary to ensure that the sheriff’s policies are carried out.”
It should be noted that while the plaintiffs in these lawsuits claimed they were improperly fired for not contributing to Sheriff Bailey’s re-election campaign, there was no finding that these plaintiffs were dismissed for not contributing. Rather, the Supreme Court looked at a sheriff’s critical need to have deputies who are loyal to the sheriff as an elected official and who will carry out the policies of the sheriff’s office.
These court decisions are not so much a victory for the sheriffs as they are a victory for the citizens of North Carolina. These court decisions ensure that when the people of a county elect a sheriff, the sheriff has a right to employ deputies that will be loyal to that sheriff and will carry out the mandate of the citizens as expressed by their selection of their county sheriff. This demonstrates one reason why the founders of our State made the Office of Sheriff a constitutionally created office accountable directly to the citizens of the county.

Former Catawba Co. Sheriff reappointed to Human Trafficking Commission

HuffmanThe Office of Governor Pat McCrory announced a number of appointments to various state boards and commissions yesterday (February 3).

Among them was David Huffman of Catawba County, who was reappointed to the North Carolina Human Trafficking Commission. Mr. Huffman served as the Sheriff of Catawba County until his retirement in 2010. He has over 42 years of law enforcement experience.

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Sheriff issues new badges, reflective of heritage and duty

BadgesSomething is different about Henderson County’s sheriff’s deputies, who were recently reminded of their roots and how they should serve the community.

New seven-point star badges have been issued by Sheriff Charles McDonald as part of his vision for the department as they move forward.

“We felt like going back to the traditional deputy badge (that) reminds us and reaffirms us of what our mission is to the community,” he said.

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North Carolina police unit to add ‘In God We Trust’ decals to patrol cars

Police CarsPolice cars in a North Carolina county will soon display “In God We Trust” decals thanks to support from a local church.

Rutherford County Sheriff Chris Francis said he’s been trying to display the nation’s motto on patrol cars for quite some time now, but it wasn’t in the budget, WLOS reported.

Fairview Baptist Church Pastor David Ledford learned of the project and decided to get involved. He offered to fund the decals and agreed to continue to fund the project as new vehicles were added to the unit.

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Sheriff receives award from Special Olympics NC: Second annual Polar Plunge kicks off this year’s fundraising season

Special OlympicsCleveland County Sheriff Alan Norman was recognized by Special Olympics North Carolina as 2015 Sheriff of the Year for the Law Enforcement Torch Run.

Norman was honored at this year’s kickoff for the fundraising season for Special Olympics, Sgt. Melanie Martin of the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office said. Norman was selected out of the 100 sheriffs in the state for his “leadership and dedication” concerning Special Olympics.

Over the past four years, the sheriff’s office has raised more than $30,000 for Special Olympics, including more than $13,000 in 2015 alone. This year, the sheriff’s office is hoping to increase that, Martin said.

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Senator Apodaca receives Defender of Public Safety Award

The North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association recognized Senator Tom Apodaca in early January as a 2015 Defender of Public Safety for the work he did during the 2015 legislative session to protect public safety in North Carolina.

Senator Apodaca dedicated time and effort during the session advocating for law enforcement issues that impact the office of sheriff, local communities and the state.

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Virginia sheriff adds ‘In God We Trust’ to cruisers

TAZEWELL COUNTY, Va. — CruisersA Virginia sheriff’s office is adding a new feature to its cruisers: a simple decal that says “In God We Trust.”

All patrol cars for the sheriff’s office in Tazewell County will now include the saying, WJHL reported.
“Our department feels very strongly about having ‘In God We Trust’ on our vehicles. We know there is nothing we can do for our community without the guidance of our Lord,” Sheriff Brian Hieatt said.

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As mass killings rise, how can sheriffs keep guns from the mentally unstable?

UnstableWASHINGTON – Before issuing thousands of permits each year for North Carolinians to buy handguns, sheriffs in Mecklenburg, Union and some other counties across the state have gone through an oft-futile exercise.

Relying on statutory language allowing them to ensure each gun owner is of “good moral character,” they have submitted applicants’ names to large health care facilities seeking to learn whether anyone was suicidal or otherwise mentally unfit to own a pistol.

Under the 1968 federal Gun Control Act, the sheriffs’ offices are entitled to know whether an applicant is disqualified from owning a firearm because he or she has been found by a court to be mentally ill, unable to manage his own affairs or a danger to himself and others.

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Deputies: Man caught with video poker machines

videopokerROCKINGHAM — A Richmond County man is accused of running an illegal gambling operation.

Sheriff’s deputies arrested 74-year-old Peter Thomas MacMillan of Sanford Street on Jan. 12, following an undercover investigation.

Investigators say they found four video poker machines.

“We got complaints from the community and our officers investigated and made an arrest,” Sheriff James E. Clemmons Jr. said Tuesday.

MacMillan was charged with one misdemeanor count each of operating or possessing slot machines and allowing gaming tables on his premises and released on a $5,000 unsecured bond.

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Security upgrades approved for Pamlico County courthouse

pamlicoBAYBORO, Pamlico CountyPamlico County Commissioners approved a $160,000 budget for security upgrades in the courthouse.

Sheriff Chris Davis said ever since he came into office, security in the courthouse has been a priority.

“For far too long, courthouse security has not received the attention that it deserves in Pamlico County,” Davis said.

Sheriff Davis created a proposal which he presented in front of county commissioners on Monday. Security improvements include upgrades to cameras, the addition of metal detector screening and one-way locking doors.

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