‘No go’ on county ordinance for sheriff’s office

Published 7:42 pm Thursday, August 2, 2018

An inquiry into whether the county can impose ordinances on sheriff’s office policy has been answered, and the answer is no.

At the request of Commissioner Hood Richardson, county staff looked into whether the county could create an ordinance that would change how the sheriff’s office notified family or other designated parties that an inmate had been transferred to the hospital from the Beaufort County Detention Center.

“You’ve previously received from me information from the School of Government; you’ve also received information from me, previously from the Sheriff’s Association, which were two of the entities that you asked that we check with. You have also — last week, I received an email that I forwarded to all of you form the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners. That was the third group you asked me to look at,” said county Manager Brian Alligood in July’s meeting of the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners.

All three entities had basically the same reply, according to Alligood and county attorney David Francisco.

“While the Board of County Commissioners has some nominal influence over a sheriff’s office due to the commissioners’ ability to set the sheriff’s budget, I am unaware of anything in North Carolina law that would suggest a sheriff reports to the Board of County Commissioners,” Adam Pridemore, legislative counsel for the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners, wrote in an email.

Francisco read to commissioners the response to the inquiry from the North Carolina Sheriffs Association.

“Any ordinance adopted would be contrary to the North Carolina Constitution. It would not be binding on the sheriff,” wrote Edmond W. Caldwell Jr., executive vice president and general counsel of the North Carolina Sheriffs Association.

The inquiry was set in motion by Richardson regarding Cory Anderson who, while serving a 30-day sentence for probation violation in May 2017, was transferred from the Beaufort County Detention Center to Vidant Beaufort Hospital after he notified jail staff that he “caught a cough” other inmates were passing around, according to the Medical Examiner’s report. Anderson died on May 8, 2017, from pneumonia and septic shock, the report states.

“Unfortunately, he passed away, but he passed away at the hospital. My understanding is that the family was notified (Anderson was in the hospital) by the hospital, even though it was not notified by the sheriff’s office,” Francisco said.

Francisco advised Richardson that the General Assembly would have to change state law in order for any ordinance to be imposed by the county on sheriff’s office operations.