Clay County Government Center. Angie Newsome/Carolina Public Press

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Two different district attorneys have said there’s not enough evidence to pursue charges against a former Clay County employee in connection with allegations from a former sheriff.

But the employee, former Finance Director Vicki Hogsed, lost her job anyway.

She doesn’t buy the official explanation that it has nothing to do with the accusations against her, which she denies.

In a letter to the editor printed Oct. 8 in the Clay County Progress, former Sheriff Joe Shook accused Hogsed of monitoring his personal phone calls for almost two years between February 2011 and November 2012.

Shook claimed in his letter that his phone records were accessed more than 3,000 times during that period. He alleged that added up to “hundreds of felonies on a computer owned by Clay County.”

Shook further implied that political corruption was behind the failure of anyone to bring charges against Hogsed or expose what he said she did.

“Not all, but most of the elected officials, past and present, have spent more time trying to cover up these alleged crimes than doing the job they were elected to do,” Shook wrote. “It is time to stop playing politics and favoritism and let this case go to the grand jury.”

Alleged monitoring

Shook served as sheriff from 2006 until 2010 when current Sheriff Vic Davis defeated Shook in the Republican primary. The alleged call monitoring would have occurred shortly after Shook left office.

In his letter, Shook said he asked deputies working for the new sheriff to investigate. Shook claimed the investigation discovered the IP address most used to access the phone records was for a computer owned by the county and another IP address “came back to a family member of Hogsed.”

During the Sheriff’s Office investigation, investigators seized a county computer that Hogsed used. Shook claimed that an email address reading joeshook41@yahoo.com, which he says he did not create, was found on a hard drive.

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But Hogsed said in a phone interview with Carolina Public Press that there’s a good reason for what deputies found on her office computer: Shook brought a letter to her office at the Finance Department, giving her permission to look at his phone records.

Complicating matters, she also said Shook was trying to get her to marry him, would call repeatedly and later tried to get her fired.

“He just needed to leave me alone,” she said.

Loss of job

Hogsed, who was employed by the county for roughly 20 years, was let go from her job in August. Officially, it’s unrelated to the accusations. According to a letter cited in the Clay County Progress at the time, her separation was due to a reduction in force.

But she told CPP that the county never gave her what she deems a “real” explanation for why she was let go.

At a county commissioners meeting in September, she read a statement seeking answers about why the county dismissed her, the Clay County Progress reported. She also referred to Shook as “a parasite” during the meeting, and said he and another county employee had complained about her to county officials. Commissioners declined a request by her attorney to reinstate her.

As of Monday, the county’s website still listed Hogsed as the finance director.  Upon calling the finance office, CPP learned that the position of finance director was not eliminated, as a reduction in force would imply. Betty Patton, who was assistant finance officer under Hogsed, is now the finance director.

Investigation

Sheriff Davis told CPP that Shook initially asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into the matter because of what he believed to be conflicts of interest.

When the SBI declined to take up the matter, Davis said he assigned a deputy “to conduct an in-depth investigation.”

The results of that probe, Davis said, were sent to the district attorney’s office, which is based in neighboring Cherokee County. Because of the potential conflicts of interest, Davis said he himself did not try to determine whether there was any merit to the allegations.

Clay County, N.C., map courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau, via Wikipedia.

Ashley Welch, who now serves as district attorney in the southwestern counties, said her predecessor, Mike Bonfoey, decided not to pursue charges. Welch has since looked into the matter and concurred with Bonfoey’s decision.

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“He determined that there was not sufficient evidence to indict Ms. Hogsed for any crimes,” Welch wrote in response to a CPP email inquiring about the investigation.

“I reviewed his decision and I agree. There is not sufficient evidence to prove Ms. Hogsed committed a crime and that has been explained to Mr. Shook on numerous occasions.”

Welch was working for the district attorney’s office at the time the allegations were made, but was not assigned to the original investigation.

Regarding Shook’s allegations that the decision not to investigate was due to politics, Welch said the charge “is simply not true.”

“This investigation has been reviewed by two DA’s offices and multiple Assistant District Attorneys over the past few years,” she wrote.

Repeated attempts by CPP to contact Shook, who has since relocated to another state, were unsuccessful.

Robert Lopez

Robert Lopez is a contributing reporter to Carolina Public Press. Contact him at roberto.lopez79@gmail.com.

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