Red Springs police chief, town manager charged after personnel records taken
The police chief and town manager of Red Springs were arrested Tuesday in connection with the removal of part of the chief’s personnel file from Town Hall, authorities said.
Police Chief Ronnie Patterson and Town Manager David Ashburn each face 10 counts of unlawful removal of public records and 10 counts of conspiracy to commit removal of public records. Ashburn also was charged with 10 counts of unlawful disposal of public records.
Both men were released on written promises to appear in court next Monday.
Former Mayor John McNeill requested a criminal investigation last spring when portions of Patterson’s personnel file surfaced during his election campaign for Robeson County sheriff. Investigators determined that Patterson and Ashburn had removed two boxes containing personnel records from a vault in Town Hall between Jan. 1 and Feb. 28, authorities said.
Authorities said the records included an investigative file related to a sex harassment complaint against Patterson by a former Red Springs employee, documentation related to two felony charges against Patterson related to a fraudulent workers compensation claim by a former town employee, an investigative file related to possible obstruction of justice by Patterson in a federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives case, the results of polygraph examinations of Patterson in all three cases, documents from a federal lawsuit against Patterson and documents from his grievances against the town.
State law requires that certain records involving public officials be retained for specific periods of time, and that after the prescribed period, they may be disposed of. But giving the records to an employee isn’t allowed, and town managers also are prohibited from accessing employee personnel records unless there is an open investigation.
Investigators also found that Patterson had previously rented three storage units in Red Springs, but the contents were auctioned off after he racked up more than $3,100 in unpaid rent on the units. The contents included crime scene photos, firearms, narcotics, photos of nude women, fingerprint files, criminal investigative files, handcuffs, ammunition and Patterson’s sexual harassment file.
Authorities said the case remains under investigation, and more arrests are possible.