BRUNSWICK COUNTY -- Since Ronald Hewett's suspension as the Brunswick County sheriff there has been a lot of debate and even confusion as to when and how to replace him. While county commissioners and the Brunswick County Democratic party try to work out the details is public safety being compromised without a permanent sheriff? Since it's uncommon for a sheriff to be suspended the state laws addressing what to do about a replacement are vague and don't give the decision makers much guidance.
Just two days ago, Brunswick County attorney Huey Marshall asked the commissioners to request that the Democratic party nominate a replacement sheriff within 30 days. Now he's changed his mind. He feels that the state law's definition of vacancy is too vague and that maybe there isn't an opening for the sheriff's position. He's afraid if the petition to remove Hewett is not passed -- and a new sheriff has been named -- the county could end up with two sheriffs. Marshall said, "Given the vague definition of vacancy there has been no succession of responsibility. The sheriff's office is functioning and our coroner is full capable of seeing that those duties are performed." State law says the coroner will take on the duties of sheriff until the position is filled. And Marshall says so far the duties have been fulfilled and residents shouldn't be concerned. Marshall says on Monday he will ask the commissioners to ignore his request to find a new sheriff quickly, and instead hold off on finding a replacement sheriff for now. There have not been any cases like this in recent history and the law regulating the succession was written in 1919. Everyone is researching and trying to figure things out as they go.