Durham Sheriff Worth Hill set to win fifth term, despite several scandals under his watch

| October 06, 2010
Roy Taylor (pictured) is running against four-term Durham sheriff incumbent Worth Hill in the fall elections.
- Photo by Jeremy M. Lange
Roy Taylor (pictured) is running against four-term Durham sheriff incumbent Worth Hill in the fall elections.
More Images

The air inside Durham Sheriff Worth Hill's office is suffused with the earthy, masculine aroma of pipe tobacco. A yellow rug sits in front of his weighty wooden desk like a welcome mat, boasting his name and title. Hill, 73, even sends personalized birthday cards to his employees featuring a Beetle Bailey-esque caricature of himself puffing on a pipe.

"That's my pacifier," Hill says, chuckling.

In his 16 years in office, Hill has had time to settle in. And despite the publicity of some recent scandals and failures among his department's 439 employees, his popularity seems intact as he readies for the Nov. 2 election. Hill has received widespread endorsements and earned about $15,000 in contributions for this campaign, including $1,500 from his employees in the last quarter. With his past success in mind, political observers believe he's headed for his fifth term.

"The community still wants me to run and be the sheriff, so that's why I'm doing it," Hill said.

The last time Hill faced a Republican challenger was in 1998, and he won 80 percent of that vote. Until last week, it looked like Hill might finally face a serious contender in Republican newcomer Roy Taylor. But Taylor acknowledged just days ago that he might not meet a critical residency requirement to serve as sheriff, and the contentious race lost steam. Taylor says he was not made aware of the requirement when he filed for office, and that if he earns more votes than Hill, he'll prove he's eligible under the state's constitution.

Hill's backers say the residency issue shows Taylor isn't credible, and one of Hill's supporters on Tuesday formally challenged Taylor's eligibility with the Durham Board of Elections. A hearing will be scheduled for after the election. Now the only other obstacle for Hill is whether voters can look past the crimes committed by his own employees in the four years since he was last elected. In 2006, three deputies were fired after one was caught trafficking drugs out of a nightclub, and the other two committed ethical violations. A year later, a civilian employee of the sheriff's office was charged with embezzling more than $100,000. A 2007 audit found that as much as $311,000 was missing and that the organization's lax accounting procedures contributed to the theft.

Other embarrassments include a March shooting outside the county's courthouse, which revealed that security cameras there haven't worked for years. And just last month, Derek O'Mary, a former lieutenant under Hill, was arrested on charges of embezzling almost $98,000 since 2003.

Hill says that in a large department, wrongdoing by some is inevitable. What counts, he says, is the way the sheriff handles the situation. In O'Mary's case, for instance, Hill suspended him within two hours of learning about the allegations and immediately involved the district attorney and the State Bureau of Investigation.

But there are also examples of inaction. Seven months after the courthouse shooting, new cameras still haven't been installed. And although a 2007 audit showed that poor fiscal oversight in the sheriff's office contributed to employee theft, a recent follow-up audit showed that in three years, only a few of the recommended changes had been made.

These shortcomings are central to Taylor's campaign. His talking points revolve around accountability and transparency. He once even turned in his own teenage son to police for stealing a car, he told the Indy, and his son served a year in prison as a result.

"I could not live knowing that my family member had committed a felony," Taylor said. "I will not tolerate it from an employee and I will not tolerate it from a friend."

Taylor, 48, is originally from Ohio but moved to North Carolina in 1986 to work as a Cary police officer. He has since worked as a police chief for several small North Carolina towns and now works for a federal anti-terrorism program and owns a private security company. Hill's supporters have chastised Taylor for the numerous jobs he has held, some lasting only a few months. Taylor said that he left two policing jobs because he had been asked to keep quiet on unethical behavior.

But it might be the residency law, not his opponent, that poses the most onerous obstacle. State law requires that candidates for sheriff live in the county where they're running for at least a year. Taylor said he became aware of the requirement only after filing a concealed weapon permit application at the Durham County Sheriff's Office, on which he listed his past 10 addresses, several of which were in Wake County. One of Hill's employees allegedly alerted a newspaper reporter, who confronted Taylor with the information.

Taylor confirmed he hasn't lived in Durham uninterrupted for the past 12 months because he sold the Durham house he owned with his former wife and stayed temporarily in Raleigh apartments. He also keeps an apartment in Virginia, where he sometimes stays while commuting to his current full-time job with the Virginia National Guard, he said.

But, Taylor said, he settled back in Durham County in December 2009 to live with a former girlfriend on Glover Road. The house has long functioned as a home-based office for William S. Scarth's painting and contracting business. Scarth said Taylor was dating his sister, who lived in the house, but Taylor never paid rent or signed a lease.

"I don't know that he was living there at all, or if he moved in," Scarth said. "I told [my sister] I thought he was trying to use her to establish residency."

Reached by phone, Lee McCullough confirmed that she and Taylor had a personal relationship and said Taylor did live with her for a time. Prompted to provide specific dates, she referred further questions to Taylor.

After questions about his residency arose, Taylor said he would withdraw from the race, despite the fact that he had spent $13,000 of his savings to run. But Taylor's campaign is now pushing forward after several attorneys said the state's constitution says only legislators are required to live in their base county for one year. They claim all other offices require only 30 days.

Don Wright, legal counsel for the N.C. State Board of Elections, said that the election law requiring a year of residency was passed in the 1970s, is valid and must be enforced.

"As to whether it is constitutional or not is a question for the court," Wright said.

Of course, the question won't be raised at all if Hill wins re-election. With 50 years' experience and a well-known family, Hill will be hard to dethrone. Hill grew up in Durham. His father worked for 40 years at the Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company and his mother worked for the Salvation Army.

As sheriff, Hill commands employees who patrol the county and run the jail and the courthouse. He says of his staff, "They enjoy working here. They enjoy the leadership that we have, and the camaraderie. We're a big family."

Hill has always been interested in public safety, evidenced by the black-and-white photo on his desk of him at age 11, wearing a school safety patrol belt buckled across his torso. The image is one of dozens along the walls of Hill's office. But it will be up to voters whether those old portraits—and the woody odor of pipe tobacco—will be allowed to linger.

Worth Hill
Worth Hill
- Photo courtesy of the candidate

Comments (13)

Showing 1-13 of 13

Mr Badge

You are right I saw that video. He did say that his family had never been in any criminal activity. Just like he said he has lived in Durham for 10 years we have read and he has admitted that was not true.
It seems to me and i am just a citizen that this man cannot keep his stories straight.
I have read he lives in Dewitt, VA, Raleigh NC, Cary NC, Durham NC. Who KNOWS? His girlfriend and her brother wouldn't cover for him about the DURHAM address.

But yet this article he talks about ACCOUNTABILITY and TRANSPARENCY!


Posted by KFC on 10/10/2010 at 2:58 PM

Well, I reviewed Roy Taylor's youtube video. In it he clearly says that no one in his family has ever been involved in criminal behavior yet in the Indy Interview he says he turned his son in for stealing a car? Now we have his lie in print and on youtube. I'm sure after this post he will rush to take the youtube off, but to late It will be available for further review throughout his ill advised run for Sheriff! I did notice dickey did say there were going to be changes November 2. I notice he did not say in the Sheriffs race Bless your heart Dickey! lol The voters can see through the smoking mirrors presented by Taylor and his cronies. Republican trick, muddy the waters and attack like sharks...

Posted by thebadge1 on 10/09/2010 at 2:43 PM

Can anybody confirm whether or not the Middle District of the U.S. Attorneys office is investigating the Durham County Sheriffs Office.
Robinson County Sheriff?
Brunswick County Sheriff?
Davidson County Sheriff?
Durham County Sheriff' & Staffers?
What do they all have in common?

Posted by Dickey on 10/09/2010 at 12:51 AM

I think no matter what the "Bloggers" say, we will all see a change on November 2nd in most public offices.

Posted by Dickey on 10/09/2010 at 12:34 AM

Mr Taylor

You have set a fine example for our young people in the Durham Community. You have demonstrated that it is (OK)..
1.To LIE
3.Not to follow Directions
4.Not Obey the laws
5.To blame others when caught in a lie.
6.To play stupid when you know the truth.
7.To be Dishonest
8.Spread rumors about people that are not true
9.Attempt to be somebody you are not
10. Scam citizens out of their hard earned money
11. To do whatever it takes to Win!
12. To put people down if you think you are better than they are.
13. Not to be responsible for your actions or comments.
14. To have others lie for you when you get caught.

These are what I have seen from you in just 2 weeks. I know you don't need to be in any office for 4 years.


Posted by KFC on 10/08/2010 at 4:08 PM

The fact is sheriff hill is the man for the job period. Roy Taylor is a liar and cant be trusted ,so why would anyone want him in office. that should say it all.

Posted by whilljr on 10/08/2010 at 12:54 PM

Mr Taylor.... are you the center of the "unethical behavior." hmmmm?

Genie you are very attentive.

It appears to me and others that he(Taylor) and his girlfriend did not get their story staight before the interview. The girls brother knew what he was up to. "A wolf in sheeps clothing." BUSTED AGAIN MR TAYLOR , caught in another story of deceit.
You are an habitual person of deceit is anything you have said or done the TRUTH!
How can you face people? I have many republican friends and you are embarrasing them plus the party you represent!

Posted by KFC on 10/08/2010 at 12:31 PM

OH, and one more thing, Good point about the paper not taking the time to verify Mr. Taylor's story about where he worked and why he left. One poster said it was simple, get Mr. Taylor to sign a waiver if he has nothing to hide.

Well it actually is easier than that, NC law provides that that info can be released to the public to give clarification/correction in cases like this. Since Mr. Taylor opened that door and said he left these places (multiple) due to being asked to do "unethical" things, the law enforcement agencies are well within their right to let the public know what ACTUALLY was the reason Mr. Taylor left.

So let's see what type of Jounalistic integrity the Indy has.

Do you want to report the TRUE story with ALL the facts, which may require a little work, few phone calls,

Or do you want to take the easy, lazy way out, take him at his word without fact checking first and just report something that is sensationalized like the Enquirer

I thought Journalism 101 covered check your facts, check your sources....

Posted by Genie on 10/08/2010 at 10:22 AM

Durham County needs proven leadership that is consistent, Sheriff Hill has been that for many years, even before becoming Sheriff. He has played an active part in this communtiy his entire adult life.

But hey, if change is what you are looking for, VOTE for Mr. Taylor, because he has proven he can change with the wind... and change his stories too!

Mr. Taylor has changed his story so many times. At first, he stated he did meet residency requirements and had lived here, then when caught, he stated he did not know what the requirements were until recent, and realizes he does not meet them. Now he is stating he knows he does not meet the requirement but he does not think it will stand up constitutionally and is running anyway.

Everyone should stop and think, Do we really want a Sheriff that changes his version of the truth so often? This should be a good indicator of what we could expect if he was heading up the Sheriff's Office.

Posted by Genie on 10/08/2010 at 10:12 AM

Ms. Khanna,

Do you not think those other men and women at the Sheriffs Office were not embarrassed by what their co workers had done. Do you not think the Sheriff was dissappointed in people he entrusted to do their job.
This kind of thing has been going on since the beginning of time it occurs at banks, on wall street and in our city and county goverments which you probably never hear of because it is swept under the rug.
Was it easy for the Sheriff to bring these incidents to light(NO) but he did. He did not sweep any situation under the rug. He did the right thing and did what is HONORABLE. There are many many great employees at the Sheriffs Office who work around the clock for you and every Durham County citizen . Why don't you take a step back and look at how the situations were handled.

I will take an Honorable Sheriff Hill each and every day.

Unlike Roy Taylor who it appears does not have all of the facts correctly to give you, other than additional rumors added to a story. If Roy is living a lying deceitful life before trying to become Sheriff what would he do if he were elected Sheriff.
Furthermore have you asked Roy for verification of his so called credentials or spoke to any of his posted places of work.
Lastly Ms. Khanna on UNETHICAL BEHAVIOR you blew this one, have you verified any work places or work history and why he (TAYLOR) left those places. I will give you one call Halifax, Va PD. He has never worked for them has an Investigator. He did some background checks for the city, related to employment. He has mislead you also!


Posted by KFC on 10/07/2010 at 9:39 AM

In this article what was not printed was the fact the independent did not ask Roy to verify or validate his background or credible service to any law enforcement agencey. They took him on his word. Right now his word means nothing. He said he was asked to keep quiet on unethical behavior, was it his own? If it wasn't his own than why have we not heard him screaming it from the mountain top if he is so honorable and even turned his son in for a crime. A background can easily be done with a signed waiver from him. Has the Indy asked for that waiver, I think not. It also appears Roy does not hang his hat in any one place too long? Maybe that has been his problem in the other jobs, Roy doesn't have a career he has jobs. There is no stability in a man who only wants to be the boss everywhere he goes. The voter has all the answers here in this article. All you have to do is put it together like a puzzle. The pieces fit rather nicely as it relates to Taylor. He is even talking about adding programs to the Sheriffs Office that are already in place. Nice research Roy! The Sheriff makes no excuses for what his employees may or may not have done. He didn't have to give any interview to the INDY, but chose to anyway. The Sheriff does not run from issues the way Taylor has been running from issues over his entire career. Doing an interview he gave Taylor some press time. Taylor should thank the Sheriff and go on with his job search!

Posted by nclawman1 on 10/07/2010 at 8:49 AM

The County manager decides what budget priorities are. The county manager has been advised on the seriousness of not having the equipment in place. The county budget set by the manager dictates purchases for the county building not the Sheriff. In 3 years the Sheriff has lost 13 deputy slots to the massive budget cuts thrown on the Sheriffs Office based on recommendations by the county manager. It is clear that safety of the citizens is the Sheriffs number 1 priority while it is not the county managers or some of the commissioners. What happened with the shooting was bound to happened and the county had been advised of the need. Unfortunately until the county manaager acknowledges along with commissioner Reckhow that public safety should be a priority the Sheriffs Office will take a bigger hit year after year. To many of our politicians law enforcement is only a necessary evil their liberal way of thinking would love to live without. As far as employees that go a stray their is no difference than a child making bad decisions. We can't always garantee they will do the right thing but we can take a corrective or diciplinary action when they don't! It's how we handle it as parents and leaders that makes a difference. No one knows everything their children or employees do all the time. No more than you can blame one group of people for the actions of one in their group! Issues of budget cutbacks belong to the county manager. The county is insured for the actions of a few. Let's think about the money when we are paying for a study our own folks and local groups can do for nothing!

Posted by thebadge1 on 10/07/2010 at 1:12 AM

Well there you have it, although the article tries to discredit the sheriff it shows one more time that Roy has serious credibility issues. No one wants to confirm Roy's story in fear of having to repeat it in a court of law in a perjury trial! They would then have to tell the truth, so lying for him now is not an option. This was one of the most childish articles ever written. Now we know why this publication is considered a tabloid!

Posted by thebadge1 on 10/07/2010 at 12:44 AM
Showing 1-13 of 13