CORNELIUS – Earlier this month town leaders took Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden up on his offer to meet in Charlotte in less “adversarial” circumstances than their previous interaction.
McFadden was asked to attend the March 18 Cornelius town board meeting to address concerns about a speed enforcement operation the sheriff’s office held in February on Jetton Road. The two-hour operation culminated in 21 traffic citations for speeds of at least 10 miles per hour more than the posted 35 mph speed limit.
Cornelius commissioners as well as residents questioned why the sheriff’s office was issuing traffic tickets, why no notice was given to the town and why it was done in Cornelius and on Jetton Road. The meeting took a turn when the newly elected sheriff said he wasn’t given a proper welcome in the town and asked if the reason the event received so much backlash is because it is a wealthier area.
“Is it really about this? Or is it about privilege?” he said during the meeting after explaining the sheriff’s office has jurisdiction over the entire county and can issue traffic citations.
The event caused a stir throughout the county. Locally, some residents said the sheriff was abusing his power or simply seeking to increase revenue by having the speed enforcement operations, while others called the commissioners’ questioning of the operation an embarrassment to the town.
In early April Mayor Woody Washam, who was absent from the town board meeting, met with McFadden along with Cornelius Police Chief Kevin Black and Town Manager Andrew Grant.
“It was a good visit,” Washam reported during the April 15 town board meeting. “We had a lot of good conversation. … I still don’t agree with everything that occurred during that process, but the sheriff was very gracious to us.”
Washam said there are plans for the two entities to work together on some things as well as to have the north Mecklenburg mayors meet McFadden to continue the dialogue and partnership.
“That’s the way to do this,” Washam said. “We need the sheriff’s department, and the sheriff department needs us. We’re in a whole lot better position.”