Posted on December 19, 2007

New Panel to Suggest What to Do on Mackey

Victoria Cherrie, Greg Lacour Melissa Manware, Charlotte Observer, December 19, 2007

The Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners, struggling to manage the aftermath of a contentious sheriff’s election, will form a bipartisan committee to keep track of developments and recommend action.

What the action will be is anyone’s guess, but it’s clear that it won’t come for at least another month or so. The man at the center of the controversy, Sheriff-elect Nick Mackey, made it plain Tuesday that he won’t step aside.

In a related development, Charlotte officials rebuffed a county effort to obtain Mackey’s personnel file from his 14 years with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. And County Manager Harry Jones, who made the request, raised the possibility that Mackey might be ousted from office even if commissioners confirm him as sheriff.

Since about 300 Democratic Party members chose Mackey Dec. 6 to be sheriff, some elected officials and others have openly questioned Mackey’s qualifications and background. Commissioners, who still must confirm him as sheriff, have raised the prospect of a delaying action to keep Mackey from taking office.


Undisclosed records

In an interview with the Observer Tuesday, Mackey, 40, declined to name the company that issued his $25,000 surety bond, reveal the company’s rating or say who rated it. He said no commissioners or county officials have asked him for the company’s name.” It will be public record once the bond has been posted,” he said. “I have been bonded as required by the law.”

When told some commissioners think he should step down and no longer seek the office, he laughed. “That’s funny,” he said, adding he has no intention of backing out.

Commissioners were divided Tuesday on whether to take the city’s refusal to release the personnel file to court.


“What is and isn’t true”

Mackey, a former Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer who was selected by Democratic Party leaders to replace Sheriff Jim Pendergraph, resigned from the Police Department in 2003 while facing possible firing. He was accused of lying about the hours he worked. Mackey has denied any wrongdoing at the Police Department.

Mackey refused to make his personnel file public during his campaign for sheriff. The Observer and other media outlets filed a court petition asking a judge to release it, but the judge sided with Mackey.

In his memo to Walton, Jones said he wants to review the file because of recent disclosures about Mackey, including a statement by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Darrel Stephens, who said he would not rehire him. The county needs to investigate Mackey’s integrity, honesty, trustworthiness and credibility before considering the possibility of removing him from the office of sheriff after he is installed, Jones wrote.


Lawsuit protection

Jones’ memo also brings up Mackey’s surety bond, a requirement for a sheriff under N.C. law. Last week, at least one bonding company denied Mackey’s application for a bond, designed to protect counties from wrongdoing by or lawsuits against officials. Friday afternoon, Mackey announced he had obtained a bond.

State law requires a sheriff’s bond to be submitted to and approved by county commissioners. If a sheriff fails to provide the bond, the law says, “the sheriff shall forfeit his office, and the commissioners shall elect a suitable person in the county as sheriff.”

Such a failure by Mackey, “we believe, would be adequate grounds for removal after being installed into office,” Jones said.