Police chief jailed after missing case file against him found in storage unit auction

Red Springs Police Chief Ronnie Patterson
Red Springs Police Chief Ronnie Patterson

The police chief of a small North Carolina town was arrested Tuesday, after an auction of his rental storage units uncovered the missing files for a sexual harassment case filed against him by a town employee, reports WTVD.

The town manager of Red Springs was also arrested, as an accomplice in removing the personnel records from the town hall vault, reported the Fayetteville Observer.

Police Chief Ronnie Patterson and Town Manager David Ashburn were each indicted on multiple conspiracy counts and unlawful removal of public records, and Patterson faces additional charges for unlawfully possessing public records, the Fayetteville Observer said.

On Wednesday morning, the city’s police department web site continued to list Patterson as police chief, a job he has held since 2010.

The Robeson County District Attorney’s Office said the missing files were found after contents of storage units belonging to Patterson “were auctioned off for nonpayment,” reported WTVD.

The unidentified person who won the storage unit auction later found the sexual harassment case files,” reported TV station WMBV.

Patterson was a runner-up in the Democratic primary for sheriff in May, reports the Robesonian newspaper. Ashburn was hired as town manager earlier this year, the newspaper said.

TV station WPDE reports a four-month investigation determined Ashburn removed two boxes of files earlier this year from a town vault during Patterson’s election campaign. One of the files involved the investigation of a sexual harassment allegation brought against Patterson by a former town employee, including results of Patterson’s polygraph and settlement details, WPDE report.

Investigators told WMBF that Patterson had rented three storage units at the same site in Red Springs and had overdue rental fees of more than $3,100 at the time of the auction.

The investigation started after former Red Springs Mayor John McNeill reported some of the town’s personnel files had been taken, the station reported.

Mark Price: 704-358-5245, @markprice_obs