NC police chief, town manager arrested in public record conspiracy investigation

Ronnie Patterson and David Ashburn

LUMBERTON, N.C. — Photos of nude women. Narcotics. Guns.

This was all found in storage units rented by a North Carolina police chief in an investigation over missing town records, WRAL reports.

Red Springs Police Chief Ronnie Patterson and Town Manager Davis Ashburn were arrested Tuesday and each charged with 10 counts of unlawful removal of public records and 10 counts of conspiracy to commit removal of public records. The chief was also charged with 10 counts of unlawful disposal of public records.

When portions of the chief’s personnel file surfaced during his campaign to become Robeson County sheriff last spring, former Mayor John McNeill asked for a criminal investigation.

According to WRAL, the investigation found that, from Jan. 1 to Feb. 28, Patterson and Ashburn removed two boxes of personnel files from a town vault.

The files taken all related to the chief.

The missing documents included a sexual harassment complaint, documentation of two felony charges for fraudulent workers compensation, records of possible obstruction of justice in a federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigation, polygraph test results in the three cases and documentation of a federal lawsuit, WRAL reports.

Also missing were documents regarding Patterson’s grievances against the town.

More files were discovered when  storage units rented by Patterson went up for auction due to $3,100 in unpaid rent.

Among the nude photos and narcotics, the unit also contained a file detailing a sexual harassment allegation against the police chief, crime scene photos, criminal investigation files, fingerprint files, handcuffs and ammunition.

Officials continue to investigate and said more arrests are possible, according to WRAL.