Hopes 'we can ... heal the community'
APRIL BETHEA, ERIC FRAZIER & GARY L. WRIGHT, Charlotte.com, Feb. 6, 2008
After weeks of controversy, Mecklenburg commissioners named Chipp Bailey the county's new sheriff Tuesday -- drawing cheers from dozens of sheriff's employees and promises of political payback from opponents.
Bailey was sworn in shortly after commissioners' vote late Tuesday.
"Thank you. I wasn't sure this night was coming," Bailey told a crowd of well-wishers after his appointment. "It's been a special day, and I'm still a little bit in shock."
"My fervent hope is that we can put our differences behind us and begin to heal the community," Bailey said.
Commissioners voted 7-1 to appoint Bailey, with Valerie Woodard casting the lone dissenting vote, and Karen Bentley absent.
Bailey, 59, succeeds Jim Pendergraph, a Democrat, who stepped down in December with three years remaining in his term.
The appointment came after 11 residents voiced support for Bailey or criticized commissioners for refusing to wait until local Democrats could hold a new election to nominate a sheriff.
Charlotte lawyer Nick Mackey beat Bailey in a special Democratic party election Dec. 6, but on Saturday a review panel invalidated that election because precincts had been improperly organized.
"Nick Mackey won this race with the rules and regulations that you guys set," Anthony Abraham told commissioners. "For you to take it back, I honestly feel like that violates his civil rights as a black man."
But Detention Cmdr. Felicia McAdoo drew a standing ovation after urging commissioners to appoint Bailey. Some 75 sheriff's office employees, dressed in beige uniforms, filled the chamber.
"We have to have someone who is a good, good leader. We have had that in Chief Bailey," said McAdoo, who some suggested would make a good sheriff if commissioners wanted a compromise nominee.
Bailey announced late Tuesday he was promoting McAdoo to his old job -- chief deputy.
Earlier Tuesday, a judge rejected a request from Mackey to block commissioners from naming a sheriff until a new election could be held.
"I'm disappointed at the ruling," Mackey, 40, told the Observer as he left the courtroom. "But I believe I have acted appropriately and in the best interests of the Democratic Party."
Commissioners said the sheriff's controversy had dragged on long enough, and that the party had failed to meet a 30-day deadline for offering a nominee.
"What we are compelled to do, and what we must do, and what we will do, is do what is right," said commissioner vice chairman Parks Helms, a vocal supporter of Bailey.
Said Commissioner Norman Mitchell: "This issue has divided the community. But tonight is the night that we move forward."
Bailey's appointment Tuesday doesn't end the controversy. Many rank-and-file Democrats have promised they'll withhold their support this fall from county commissioners running for re-election.
But commissioners said they wouldn't be swayed by a potential backlash from voters. Their main goal, they said, was to appoint the most qualified person as sheriff.
Mackey sued commissioners Tuesday morning, asking for a temporary restraining order and injunction until the local Democratic Party holds another election.
Superior Court Judge John Smith wrote in his order that before the court could block an elected body's actions, Mackey needed to show he would likely prevail in his lawsuit, and that he would be irreparably harmed if the court didn't act.
Mackey failed to prove either, the judge ruled.
The judge also noted that N.C. law requires the Democratic Party to recommend a candidate within 30 days -- and that it failed to do so.
It's unclear what Mackey might do next.
His lawyer told the judge that if Mackey couldn't stop the commissioners, his bid for the sheriff's office would essentially be over.
But Mackey could add new claims to his lawsuit, Gresham said. He declined to specify what they might be.
Gresham told the judge that county commissioners should have named Mackey sheriff after he won the special election.
"The 30 days passed because they didn't carry out their lawful duty," Gresham argued.
He added that Mackey considered suing commissioners shortly after the election, but held off because he wanted to see if his election was validated.
Charlotte lawyer Jim Cooney, representing Mecklenburg County, told the judge the Democratic Party had not submitted a valid recommendation and that Mackey had no legal right to stop commissioners from appointing a sheriff.
"He doesn't have a right to win ...," Cooney told the judge. "Right now he is not the nominee of the Democratic Party ... All those actions have been invalidated."
THE PATH TO SHERIFF
Bailey was insider before controversy
Career extends from county utilities to police to sheriff's office
Staff Reports, Charlotte.com, Feb. 6, 2008
Daniel "Chipp" Bailey has spent most of his career in law enforcement in Mecklenburg County, yet until the recent sheriff's race he was virtually unknown outside law enforcement and county government offices.
Bailey, 59, was born in Charlotte, the son of a Methodist minister. By age 12, the Rev. Edwin Bailey was moving the family from church to church, mostly in N.C. towns.
Bailey considered marine biology after earning a biology degree at Pfeiffer College in 1970. Instead, he joined the county police department after a year of analyzing industrial wastewater for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utility Department.
He briefly left the department to get a master's in criminal justice at the University of South Carolina and has spent his spare time over the years penning mystery novels, including "Justice Betrayed" and "Execute the Office."
In the 1980s, Bailey headed up public affairs for the old county police department. In that job, he was the face of the department, fielding questions from reporters and going on camera. When city and county police consolidated in 1993, he took on administrative work.
He was overseeing the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department's planning and research section when Jim Pendergraph was elected sheriff in 1994 and made Bailey his chief deputy. Some in local law enforcement circles say Bailey has been Pendergraph's "yes man."
Pendergraph denies the claim, saying in a recent interview: "I've brought a lot of things to him and he's talked me out of them," the former sheriff said. "Anyone who says he's my `yes man' isn't privy to those conversations."
When Pendergraph retired in December to take a job with the federal Homeland Security department, he recommended Bailey serve out the last three years of his term. That seemed a done deal until Nick Mackey, a little-known Charlotte attorney, overcame questions about his background and rallied enough support to be elected sheriff by the local Democratic party.
After months of controversy about whether the election was flawed, Bailey broke his silence Monday and e-mailed Mecklenburg County commissioners urging them to appoint him.
"Then and only then can the community begin to heal from this divisive process," he wrote.
Chipp Bailey, 59
• Biology degree, Pfeiffer College, 1970.
• Patrol officer, Mecklenburg County Police Department, 1972-1975.
• Master's in criminal justice at the University of South Carolina, 1976.
• Crime and budget analyst for police department, 1982-87.
• Administrative officer, Charlotte-Mecklenburg (and Mecklenburg County) police departments, 1987-94.
• Taught ethics and justice as adjunct professor at Pfeiffer University, 1996-2006.
• His mystery-writing Web site: http://mysterysouth.com.
• His current salary is $142,857. Commissioners could consider a raise.
• Party: Democratic.