ELIZABETHTOWN, NC (WWAY) — Interim Bladen County Sheriff Earl Storms is under fire for letting several deputies go moments after he took office yesterday. Since talking with WWAY last night, Storms keeps changing his story.
Today, Storms says he asked the deputies to reapply for their positions and the deputies chose not to. But last night, he told us he needed more time to evaluate them before swearing them in.
This all stems from a swearing-in ceremony in yesterday. Storms was sworn in, as were some of the county’s deputies. Five of the office’s 10 deputies were not sworn in. One of them was Chief Deputy Phillip Little, who interim Sheriff Storms says retired. As for the other four, former Sheriff candidate Eric Bryan, Scott Pait, Steve Lesane and Debra Nelson, Storms gave one explanation about why they were not sworn in, but today it was a different story.
“It’s the Sheriff’s prerogative and state law to swear in deputies that he so desires,” Storms told WWAY last night. “And a lot of the men, I haven’t had a chance to go over their record. That will come down the line.”
Today, though, Storms said, “I haven’t fired anybody. They were all offered applications. They declined not to fill them out. I didn’t hire them. You can’t fire them if you didn’t hire them.”
Nelson emailed us this morning saying, “Your news release is a LIE. Earl Storms never talked to me this morning or my supervisor Scott Pait. Herman Dunn, Prentis Benston’s campaign manager/treasurer, came to us and told us we were not being sworn back in. Storms never talked to us.”
Storms admits he never talked to the five deputies before they found out at the last minute that they would not be sworn in.
County Commissioner Billy Ray Pait says the decision reeks of politics. He says commissioners will hold a special meeting Friday to see if they can legally terminiate Storms.
We were shown a letter today posted inside the Sheriff’s Department that tells dispatchers not to contact Sheriff Storms directly at any time. Instead they should contact Capt. Prentis Benston, the Democratic nominee for Sheriff in November, first or Dunn. If you connect the political dots, Storms threw his support behind Benston early in the race. Dunn is Benston’s campaign manager/treasurer.
Lesane, Pait and Nelson all supported Bryan’s campaign for sheriff, according to Bryan’s campaign website.