Sheriff opens investigation

Published 9:30 am Wednesday, November 26, 2008

WINDSOR — Bertie County Sheriff Greg Atkins is opening a criminal investigation based on a report prepared for the Bertie County Board of Education.

The report alleges former Bertie County Schools Superintendent John Smith did not receive proper approval of the school board to hook his personal property to the school system’s wastewater treatment system at the former C. G. White Elementary School. It further offers information that seems to indicate Smith used school district personnel to perform private work for him during the school day.

It further alleged that former Bertie Board of Education Chairman Gary Cordon misrepresented the board by claiming it had given approval for the hookup when no such action had been taken.

Prepared by Richard A. Schwartz of Schwartz and Shaw, the report was forwarded to a variety of agencies at the request of the Bertie County Board of Education. Those agencies included District Attorney Valerie Asbell, State Auditor Leslie W. Merritt, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, Andrew Pappas of the State Bureau of Investigation and three others.

On Tuesday afternoon, Asbell confirmed receipt of the report via a telephone interview. She further stated that she had followed proper procedure and forwarded it to the Bertie County Sheriff.

“I received the information from the attorney’s (Schwartz) office and forwarded it to the Bertie County Sheriff’s Office,” Asbell said. “My office does not investigate matters. It is in the (Bertie) sheriff’s jurisdiction to investigate and determine if it is a criminal matter.” Contacted by telephone later Tuesday, Atkins confirmed he had received the report in the past few days and had decided to open an investigation.

“I am opening an investigation into the matter,” Atkins said. “We will do it ourselves in the department unless we find something that needs to be passed on.”

Atkins said Bertie Sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Ed Pittman would be in charge and that Pittman had just begun his investigation.

Spokespersons with both the Office of North Carolina Auditor Leslie W. Merritt and Attorney General Roy Cooper said they would investigate the status of the report in their respective offices. Neither had confirmed its status as of 5 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.