RED SPRINGS — Ronnie Patterson is back working as the police chief in Red Springs, and David Ashburn is back as its town manager.
The Red Springs Board of Commissioners this week voted unanimously to take both men off of administrative leave with pay, and put them back working their jobs. The town’s director of Human Resources, Annette Bryant, who was also placed on administrative leave with pay, is expected to be back on her job next week, according to Mayor Edward Henderson.
The three were placed on administrative leave with pay on Oct. 2 in a 5 to 1 vote by the board, action that was taken the week after Patterson and Ashburn were charged with 50 misdemeanor crimes total in regard to the removal of some documents from Patterson’s personnel file from Town Hall.
As mayor, Henderson only votes to break ties.
“It’s a board’s decision,” he said. “I talked with the board about it, and they felt like they wanted to bring them back.”
Bryant was on vacation last week, Henderson said, and is on administrative leave this week.
Patterson has been the police chief since 2010; Ashburn became town manager in January.
Patterson ran for sheriff, and finished second in a five-person race on May 8, getting 35 percent of the vote. Burnis Wilkins will be sworn in as sheriff in December.
Patterson is charged with 10 counts of unlawful removal of public records and 10 counts of conspiracy to commit removal of public records. Ashburn is charged with 10 counts of removal of public records, 10 counts of unlawful disposal of public records and 10 counts of conspiracy to commit removal of public records.
They were indicted by a grand jury on Sept. 4.
Erich Hackney, an investigator with the county District Attorney’s Office, said previously that a search on May 4 showed that two “bankers boxes” had been removed from Town Hall and given to Patterson. He said they were removed between Jan. 1 and Feb. 28.
Patterson had two Red Springs police officers return the documents on May 7, according to Hackney.
The records that were removed included information that Patterson lied while being investigated for sexual harassment, that he showed deception at least twice when taking a polygraph test, that he obstructed federal investigations, that he participated in a fraudulent worker’s compensation claim and documents regarding a wrongful death lawsuit against him and the town.
Hackney said the investigation showed that Patterson had rented three storage units at Highway 211 Mini Storage Unit in Red Springs. When his past due rental fees reached $3,151, the contents of his units were sold. The investigation found that contained in those units were crime scene photos, firearms, narcotics, photos of nude women, fingerprint files, criminal investigative files, handcuffs, ammunition, and the sexual harassment file.
That sexual harassment filed was given to The Robesonian, which published on April 26 a story about Patterson’s perjury as related to tha lawsuit.
The reinstatement came on Monday, in what was a continuation of the board’s Oct. 2 meeting. The Robesonian was unaware of Monday’s meeting and did not send a reporter. The town by law must announce meetings, but did not have to do so in this case because it was a continuation of a previous meeting, and not a new one.
Reach Donnie Douglas at 910-416-5649 or [email protected]