LUMBERTON — Red Springs Police Chief Ronnie Patterson’s sheriff’s campaign organization has been fined $500 and faces possible civil penalties for failure to file a finance report.
The N.C. Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement sent Patterson and campaign Treasurer Takenya L. McLean a Notice of Noncompliance and a Notice of Penalty Assessment. Both letters were dated July 18 and both were sent via certified mail.
As of Tuesday, Patterson’s campaign has not filed a second quarter finance report, according to the Robeson County Board of Elections. The report was due at 5 p.m. July 11.
Patterson came in second in a five-person race to be county sheriff. Lumberton City Council member Burnis Wilkins won the May 8 Democratic primary. No Republican filed as candidate, clearing the way for Wilkins in the Nov. 6 general election.
Randall Graham, James Jones and George Kenworthy also ran for sheriff in the primary. They and Wilkins have filed their reports, according to the county Elections Board. Kenworthy filed a report on June 29, Graham on July 10, and Jones and Wilkins on July 11.
State law dictates that a campaign organization in a local election be fined $50 per day for each day a finance report is overdue, up to a maximum penalty of $500.
McLean told the county Board of Elections that the report was not filed because she was suffering pregnancy complications, according to a county Board of Elections spokesperson. When contacted by The Robesonian, McLean indicated all questions should be directed to Patterson and declined to comment further. Attempts to reach Patterson for comments were unsuccessful.
A Penalty Assessment letter sent to the Patterson campaign reads in part, “Failure to pay or respond to this penalty will render the committee ineligible to receive or make contributions pursuant to Chapter 1.0104(d) of Title 8 of the North Carolina Administrative Code until the statutory penalty is paid and all scheduled reports filed.”
The letter also gives instructions on how to appeal the assessed penalty.
The state board’s letter informs Patterson and McLean that the required report is overdue and they have 20 days from the letter’s date to file the report or the state board will issue a “Notice of Termination of Active Status.”
“This status renders the committee ineligible to receive or make contributions until such time as it has filed the delinquent report or has satisfied any statutory penalty incurred as a result of noncompliance with the provisions of Article 22A of Chapter 163 of the General Statutes,” the letter reads in part.
Article 22A of Chapter 163 reads in part, “If the Board determines by clear and convincing evidence that the late filing constitutes a willful attempt to conceal contributions or expenditures, the Board may assess a civil penalty in an amount to be determined by that Board, plus the costs of investigation, assessment, and collection. The civil penalty shall not exceed three times the amount of the contributions and expenditures willfully attempted to be concealed.”
Article 22A goes on to read in part, “If an individual, person, political committee, referendum committee, candidate, or other entity intentionally makes or accepts a contribution or makes an unlawful expenditure in violation of this Article, then that entity shall pay to the State Board of Elections, in an amount to be determined by that Board, a civil penalty and the costs of investigation, assessment, and collection. The civil penalty shall not exceed three times the amount of the unlawful contribution or expenditure involved in the violation.”
No local or state elections office or law enforcement agency has accused Patterson or his campaign organization of willfully concealing contributions or expenditures.
However, Patterson’s campaign was marred by controversy.
Documents surfaced during his campaign showing Patterson lied under oath during an investigation 10 years ago of a charge of sexual harassment of a female officer whom he supervised while serving as captain of the Red Springs Police Department.
The Robesonian was given a copy of Patterson’s personnel file detailing the perjury, and comments from an investigator who essentially said Patterson was unfit to be a law officer. While Patterson denied the existence of the file, one of his campaign managers, John McNeill, former mayor of Red Springs, didn’t deny its existence, and in a text message told The Robesonian editor to “print at your peril” a story base on the file.
Three days later, on April 26, The Robesonian published a story about Patterson’s perjury.
Patterson’s campaign also attached itself to allegations that Wilkins, the eventual winner, had used racial epithets against blacks and American Indians while speaking to a group in Parkton. A video from the event did not confirm the allegation, and no one ever came forward despite the newspaper’s invitation to confirm that they had heard it.
Wilkins received about 8,600 votes and Patterson about 7,200.
There is an ongoing investigation into how Patterson’s personnel file was taken from Town Hall.
Reach T.C. Hunter by calling 910-816-1974 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.