ANSON COUNTY, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – Anson County officials swore in Scott Howell Wednesday morning as the new sheriff.
At the same time, the county’s other sheriff, voted into power by county commissioners, filed a lawsuit that would give him control of the office.
Sgt. Gerald Cannon filed the 23-page lawsuit against Sheriff Howell and stated that he blocked him from an office he was voted into.
READ THE LAWSUIT BELOW:
His team explained why they felt the vote to place Sheriff Howell into office was unlawful.
A judge ruled on Wednesday that, while his team has laid out their arguments, they need to seek guidance from the State’s Attorney General’s Office on whether they would like to prosecute the case themselves or have Sgt./Sheriff Cannon’s team do so.
In the meantime, Sheriff Howell will serve as sheriff, with a public ceremony set for Friday at 8:30 a.m. at the Anson County Courthouse.
The decision to overturn this appointment could rest heavily upon the interpretation of several statutes in the law that center around term limits for county commissioners and the interpretations of “emergency meeting” statuses.
The controversy is traced back to Sept. 21, when Sheriff Landric Reid unexpectedly passed away.
Chief deputy Scott Howell took over as interim sheriff for Anson County, which is in line with county statutes. Sheriff Reid was a Democrat and was the only name listed on the ballot for the election.
While Sheriff Howell took over as interim sheriff, the law gave the Democratic Party a chance to pick his replacement.
The party chose then Cannon as their candidate.
However, Anson County Attorney Scott Forbes explained the result of that process was invalid. He explained that, due to no fault of Cannon’s, “a petition was filed, and the process was deemed improper and was overturned.”
The party did not name another candidate before the election was certified on Nov. 18.
Another tricky part of the dispute begins here because the law needs to lay out how long a party has to name another candidate to replace their prior candidate.
On Dec. 3, the Democratic Party held a meeting and announced, for a second time, that their candidate for Sheriff would be Gerald Cannon.
The County Chairman called an emergency meeting. During the meeting, four unanimous votes went in favor of Sgt. Cannon for the position of sheriff.
Other county commissioners have spoken out against this meeting, saying it can be with little to no warning and did not meet the criteria for an “Emergency Meeting.”
Only four county commissioners were in attendance, while others dialed in by phone. Those commissioners said they had connection problems.
County Attorney Forbes said it “could be deemed later to be improper, but at this time, that meeting has not been challenged by anyone.”
There are also questions over two county commissioners who voted on Monday and whose terms have since expired.
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Forbes said this falls on the interpretation of statutes and that the courts will have the final say.
He explained, “There is a statute that states that says that the terms end two years from the first Monday in December. So, by that standard, the term was over. However, under 128-7.1 – that says they will hold over until the new commissioners would be sworn in until December the 6th.”
Sheriff Howell was sworn in as sheriff of Anson County on Wednesday morning and will serve his duty until the courts decide that his appointment was unlawful.
The sheriff also spoke in court on Wednesday and fought for his seat in office.
A timetable has not been announced for when the State’s Attorney General’s Office will decide on their involvement.
Forbes stressed that the county would back whoever is declared sheriff and that both men are highly qualified.