Gates County Sheriff’s frustrations continue

Published 6:13 pm Tuesday, October 25, 2022

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GATESVILLE – Although he expressed gratitude to the Gates County Board of Commissioners for last month’s approval of allowing him to purchase three new vehicles for his department, Sheriff Ray Campbell remains adamant of a disconnect between he, the board, and the county manager.

Speaking during the public comments portion of last week’s regularly scheduled commissioners meeting, Campbell didn’t mince words in expressing his continued frustration. He claimed there is no working relationship between the board and the Sheriff’s Office.

“There’s a legitimate reason for this,” he stated. “The way I’ve been spoken to by one of the board members is the reason. During a 51-minute phone conversation with a commissioner on July 6, 2021, I was screamed at like I was a child.”

Campbell alleged that during the conversation, he was told ‘we’re going to have a sheriff; it may not be you, but we’ll have a sheriff.’

“Those words will never be forgotten,” Campbell stated.

He added that he was disrespected by a board member at last month’s meeting of the commissioners.

“Now everyone knows why there is not a working relationship between the board, as it sits, and my office,” he noted.

Campbell bought up the pending transition of the 911 Dispatch Center from the county’s oversight to the Sheriff’s Office, an issue that has been previously discussed, sometimes contentiously.

“Our 911 Center is the guardian angel of our county and of every first responder,” Campbell said. “People’s lives are at stake here. There appears to be a plan to run the Dispatch Center into the ground, leave it in shambles and turn it over to me, hoping that it does collapse so that the finger of blame can be pointed at me.”

Campbell stressed the current make-up of the Dispatch Center is “eight dispatchers short.”

“Over 30 shifts a month are covered with one dispatcher,” he continued. “Multiple calls coming in at once creates a tremendous liability for everyone involved. There are other dispatchers that are willing to help cover shifts, but are not being allowed to. Qualified applicants, I’m told, are not being hired. Dispatchers from other counties are wanting to come here to work here but will not under the current administration.”

Campbell added that an email sent on Aug. 19, 2021 from County Manager Tim Wilson stated that “he wanted to move the [dispatch] center anyway.”

“If you, the county manager, and this board think that you’re going to run our 911 Center in the ground and blame it on me, I would hope you would rethink that,” the Sheriff stated.

“The funding I have to battle for for my office, will it be more of the same when it comes to the Dispatch Center,” Campbell continued. “I’m afraid it will be.”

Campbell informed the county manager and the commissioners that “you do not control my office and you never will. What you can control is my funding.”

He then directed his comments at Wilson and Dr. Althea Riddick, chair of the commissioners.

“It seems that this is becoming personal,” Campbell said. “That’s the way I feel. With every fiber of my being, your intent, as county manager and the chair, is to make it as hard as possible on my office and the 911 Center after it’s turned over to me by not providing funding. What a shame.”

This isn’t the first time that Campbell has expressed his frustration. He referenced a Jan. 20, 2021 article in the Gates County Index that quoted him as saying, “we’re headed in the wrong direction” and “there is an evil here, hell bent on tearing our county apart, and you, as commissioners, would rather ride a sinking sink down together if things did not change.

“Well, here you are [today], tax increases, reckless spending, creating jobs that aren’t needed. I’ll give you this, ya’ll rode it down together, what a shame,” Campbell concluded.

Riddick, later in the meeting, addressed the Sheriff’s concerns about the transition of the Dispatch Center to his control. She said the county attorney is currently working on the documents that will formally transfer the Dispatch Center to the Sheriff’s Office.

“We are giving him (Campbell) all the information, all the tools, all the documents he needs as well as the access to all the statutes and administrative codes that deals with 911,” Riddick stated. “We will give him everything he needs so he can do a comprehensive plan with his staff and external advisors so that plan in place for 911 is built on what we already have and even more.

“We want [911 Dispatch] to be successful,” Riddick continued. “I heard the comments about us (commissioners) wanting to drive it in the ground so we can blame him. That’s not true. If that were true then we would not trying to help by giving everything that we have. We’re not holding anything back.”

In the same meeting, during his update to the board about the Dispatch Center, Gates County Emergency Management Director Jason Sample addressed the staffing issues at the Center.

“Staffing issues are not new, nearly every department in the county has a staffing issue,” Sample said. “I have reached out to [neighboring] counties since December and tried to get certified dispatchers to come here full-time and part-time. We aren’t getting applications because Gates County is the laughing stock of the state. When I go to trainings and conferences throughout the year, the first thing they say to me is ‘you’ve got a storm over there that ain’t nothing but drama.’ They watch the video of the [board] meetings and then they go on Facebook and read all the negative comments. So then, why would people want to work here when they see all those negative comments?”

Sample said he’s doing all he can to get the Dispatch Center updated prior to it being turned over to the Sheriff’s Office.

“I don’t demand loyalty, I demand accountability,” he stressed.


About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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