We should be confused by a handful of African American pastors’ insistence that we ought not have published substantiated information that a sheriff’s candidate committed perjury during an investigation that targeted him, while at the same time urging us to publish unsubstantiated allegations against other candidates.
But we aren’t.
Here is the difference, and it’s plain: Ronnie Patterson lied under oath, not once, but multiple times while being investigated for sexual harassment, which the town’s internal investigation found didn’t happen even as it was clear he had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a subordinate. We published that information because we do believe anyone who wants to be sheriff should be trustworthy and honest.
To have not done so when given the proof, would have been an abdication of our duty as a newspaper tasked with being a watchdog. And just as we can’t teach a dog algebra, we can’t make those who dismiss with a shoulder shrug its consequences understand that we don’t need as a sheriff a perjurer. That apparently includes a school board member who wants to be senator.
We have no evidence of similar behavior from other candidates. If proof arises, then we will publish. And proof isn’t someone’s memory from 30 years ago, or even yesterday. It would need to be documented.
We don’t know how to defend ourselves against today’s go-to accusation, that our intent was racist. We didn’t dig up anything on Patterson, and no Pulitzer is forthcoming; it was handed to us. And we know what these pastors would say if we had similar information on another candidate and refused to publish it.
The wrong questions are being asked — but we will answer one, to the ability that we can, which we have been asked frequently since Thursday: How did the file arrive at our office?
John McNeill, the town’s former mayor and Patterson’s campaign manager, suggested last week that the SBI be called in to find out. We second that call, but this newspaper, like McNeill, doesn’t have jurisdiction to make that request. It would have to come from the local District Attorney’s Office, and we encourage Johnson Britt to do so, or perhaps the town of Red Springs, which has a new town manager.
We can tell you that no member of The Robesonian staff sneaked into Red Springs Town Hall and rifled through the files.
We can tell you as well that the information we have is real. We have a demand letter from the town of Red Springs that we return the original file and any copies. We don’t possess the original copy. Ours is a copy, and it will remain with us.
Logic suggests that if the town is demanding the file’s return, then it must be missing.
This is what we were told by the person who handed it to us, and yes, that person has an agenda. The file was found in a storage unit in Red Springs that had been abandoned, whose contents were purchased by someone hoping to find a treasure trove, but of another kind.
It is interesting to remember that Patterson perjured himself in 2008, during the investigation of the alleged sexual harassment. Presumably, that is when the information was entered into his personnel file. Patterson was demoted from captain to school resource officer following the investigation, and later left the department.
He was rehired later as police chief, when McNeill was mayor, even though evidence of his perjury was in the town’s file — or should have been.
There are a lot of lies circulating concerning the authenticity of the information in the file, and how it arrived at our office. This newspaper is telling none of them.
We hope the SBI arrives, and conducts its own investigation. We are curious where it would lead, and it certainly would not be to our office.