The man challenging Pitt County Sheriff Mac Manning for his job in the May 4 primary made it official Thursday morning.
Neil Elks is a retired captain with the Sheriff's Office. In his announcement, Elks said he wanted to return the department to integrity and accountability. He says right now the Sheriff's Office is plagued with scandals and has lost the public's trust.
Wednesday, Sheriff Mac Manning criticized a telephone poll that the Elks' campaign had commissioned. Manning said many of the poll questions were distorted to sway the results. In an news release Thursday morning, the sheriff said he signed a pledge to run a clean campaign and to stay focused on the issues affecting the safety and security of citizens. Manning challenged Elks to do the same. Elks told WITN News that he will run a clean campaign.
One of those attending Elks' news conference was Barbara Pollard, mother of Stacey Pollard. Barbara Pollard says she's been fighting for five years for justice for her son.
Stacey Pollard was married to former Lt. Michelle Pollard and died at the couple's Grimesland home in 2005. The mother feels her son's death investigation was mishandled by Manning's deputies and that is why she is supporting Elks.
Just last month Michelle Pollard was convicted of obstruction of justice for tipping off the subject of a drug investigation. She is serving a six to eight month prison sentence in Raleigh.
A former sheriff's captain, who says he's running for Pitt County sheriff, responded to a full page ad by Sheriff Mac Manning which appeared Wednesday morning in the Daily Reflector.
Manning said he was speaking about the case involving Stacey Pollard, the late husband of former deputy Michelle Pollard, in response to what he says was a biased telephone poll. That poll, conducted by the Neil Elks campaign, was released Wednesday.
One of the questions dealt with last month's conviction of former Lt. Michelle Pollard. It asked responders: "Tell us if you agree or disagree with this statement. Recently, a Pitt County Sheriff’s deputy was found guilty of obstruction of justice and has been linked to a death investigation. In light of these allegations, I believe we need to elect a new Sheriff who can clean up the department, restore public trust and carry out the duties of the office of Sheriff." The Public Policy poll says 58% agreed, while 42% disagreed with the statement.
Elks says Public Policy is a well-known and well-respected polling firm and that the poll was not a "push poll" as Manning claims.
To view the complete poll, click on the link at the top of the story. We have also posted Mac Manning's letter and Neil Elks' response below
Pollard was convicted of tipping off the subject of a drug investigation. Manning says the same district attorney's office that vigorously prosecuted that case is the same district attorney's office that thoroughly reviewed the evidence in the drowning of Stacey Pollard over four years ago and determined no basis on which to prosecute a case.
Manning also says Elks was the captain at the scene that night and Elks made no report and gave no other indication that the case was anything other than an accidental drowning.
But in the statement released Wednesday morning, Elks said he was at the Pollard house for approximately 10 minutes and says he handed over authority of the scene to Detective Paula Dance. Elks says when he left the scene he says he was under the impression that the State Bureau of Investigation would be called to assist.
"As we all know, that never occurred. The Sheriff took command of the investigation and later forced Detective Dance out of office because she persisted in her efforts to call in the SBI," said Elks.
Elks campaign manager tells WITN that the candidate plans to officially file for office Thursday at the Pitt County Courthouse.
A sheriff running for re-election says he wants to set the record straight when it comes to a death investigation involving the husband of a former deputy, who is now in prison.
Pitt County Sheriff Mac Manning says he's speaking about the case involving Stacey Pollard, the late husband of former deputy Michelle Pollard, in response to what he says was a biased telephone poll.
Michelle Pollard was recently convicted of tipping off the subject of a drug investigation. Manning says the same district attorney's office that vigorously prosecuted that case is the same district attorney's office that thoroughly reviewed the evidence in the drowning of Stacey Pollard over four years ago and determined no basis on which to prosecute a case.
Sheriff Manning also says the captain at the scene that night made no report and gave no other indication that the case was anything other than an accidental drowning. The sheriff says Neil Elks, who is now running against him, was that captain.
Mac Manning Letter
To the Citizens of Pitt County:
A telephone poll was conducted in Pitt County on Friday, February 5th, 2010 by a Raleigh based company, Public Policy Polling.com, presumably at the behest of my political adversaries. I believe the polling questions were biased and distorted the facts concerning my actions related to Michelle Pollard and her employment history.
This is a clear indication that they intend to capitalize on the Michelle Pollard case in the upcoming election. No one could be more disappointed than I am with her conduct last year related to a derailed drug investigation that led to her conviction for obstruction of justice. However, attempts to link this recent issue to past events such as her husband’s drowning death in 2005 are misleading.
The same district attorney’s office that vigorously prosecuted the recent obstruction case is the same district attorney’s office that thoroughly reviewed the evidence in the drowning over four years ago and determined no basis on which to prosecute a case.
To ensure the public’s trust in me and my office, I am compelled to set the record straight and share my perspective on the sequence of events since 2005. At all times, my actions were guided by the relevant facts. I am constrained by state employment law in what I am able to discuss regarding personnel matters. However, I can point out several facts that are matters of public record and offer my related comments.
One blatant distortion in the polling questions was the insinuation that I hired Michelle Pollard. The fact is that Michelle Pollard was hired in 1993 during the previous sheriff’s administration. Neil Elks was among the top commanding officers in that previous administration. He should certainly be better able to explain her hiring than I.
On the evening of November 18, 2005, the highest ranking Sheriff’s Office official at the scene of Stacey Pollard’s drowning was a captain. Captains are responsible for overseeing all matters within their assigned district. The captain at the scene that night made no report and gave no other indication whatsoever that the case was anything other than an accidental drowning. Neil Elks was that captain. Has he changed his mind now for political gain?
I did not go to the Pollard home on the evening of Stacey’s drowning. I had every confidence at the time that I could rely on what was being reported to me from staff and investigators at the scene. Everything reported concerning the findings at the scene indicated that the drowning death was indeed accidental.
The detective assigned to the Pollard drowning closed the case on December 15, 2005. Her report indicated that the medical examiner’s report had been received and that it confirmed the cause of death as drowning. The report further indicated there was a past history of seizures.
Five weeks later, I was notified that members of the Barbara Pollard family were dissatisfied with the investigation by the Sheriff’s Office. This was the first notice that I had of their dissatisfaction, which came out during a meeting on January 24, 2006 with the assigned detective and her supervisors. Upon being informed of this, I immediately requested the SBI to further investigate Stacey Pollard’s drowning. I spoke with the agent in charge of the local SBI office by telephone and then followed up with a letter confirming my request. That letter was made a part of the SBI file.
One year later, on January 25, 2007, the district attorney came by my office. He handed me a copy of the SBI report and informed me that the investigation was complete and that there would be no charges filed regarding the drowning death of Stacey Pollard.
On July 5, 2007 I was contacted by a TV news reporter that showed me copies of a federal lawsuit and stated that it had been filed that day against the Sheriff’s Office regarding our handling of the drowning investigation. The plaintiff’s attorney had already given them an on camera interview. What I stated then and what I believe now, is the lawsuit was nothing more than a politically motivated “smear campaign.” It was the next week before I received copies in the mail from the plaintiff’s attorney.
In August of 2007, just a little more than a month after filing the federal lawsuit, photos were posted on the plaintiff’s website of her daughter-in-law, Michelle Pollard, purporting them to be from a wet tee shirt contest. I saw those photos for the first time like everyone else, on the worldwide web.
As a result, I took disciplinary action against Michelle Pollard in the form of time off without pay, demotion in rank and a twelve month pay reduction. The disciplinary action taken against Michelle Pollard was mitigated in part due to the manner in which the photos were made public. I found the act of posting these on the internet to be more offensive than the misbehavior captured by the photos and done only to further the “smear campaign” against my office. Furthermore, I considered the fact that Michelle Pollard was a recent widow who was raising a teenager and that termination from employment would have been excessively punitive. I made a conscientious decision in taking the disciplinary action and I stand by that decision.
In January of 2008, the federal lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Office was dismissed by the federal district court and that ruling was later upheld by the federal court of appeals.
On April 29, 2009 I was notified by the narcotics unit supervisor that a drug investigation may have been hindered by an internal leak of information. After being confronted with findings from our internal investigation, Michelle Pollard resigned. Her termination from employment was effective on July 1, 2009. The key evidence used to prosecute Michelle Pollard for obstruction of justice was first turned up by the internal investigation conducted at my direction within the Sheriff’s Office.
Throughout the course of these events, my actions were based on the facts that were known to me. Legal advisors were consulted and provided guidance. Regardless of the degree of public attention that a personnel matter may or may not receive, it is my obligation to conduct impartial investigations and to discipline employees in a fair and consistent manner. The actions I took were justified and appropriate. I acted lawfully in every way and carried out the duties of my office in full measure.
I have complete respect for the public trust placed in me by the citizens of Pitt County. I thank you for your continued support and look forward to the opportunity to continue to serve as your sheriff.
Mac E. Manning, Jr.
Neil Elks News Release
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Majority of Likely Voters Believe Its Time to Clean Up the Sheriff's Office
It's a sad day in politics in Pitt County, when the Sheriff has to purchase a full page ad to try and clean his hands of a scandal that he created.
Public Policy Polling conducted a public opinion survey for my campaign earlier this month. Public Policy Polling is a survey research firm based in Raleigh. They are a well-known and well-respected polling firm. Just this week, many news outlets in our area reported on the poll they just released about Governor Perdue. (WITN has the Perdue Poll on their website this morning.)
The poll, which we are releasing today, showed 60 percent of most likely voting Democratic primary voters believe it's time to clean up the Sheriff's office. The poll shows the race between Sheriff Manning and me a statistical dead-heat.
The Sheriff may not like the fact that we are running a professional campaign - but let me be very clear, Public Policy Polling did not run a "push poll" as the Sheriff alleges.
The full page ad is another example of the Sheriff being grossly misinformed and just not telling the citizens of Pitt County the truth.
Let's look at the facts.
I did respond to the Pollard house on the night Deputy Pollard's husband died. I was on the scene for approximately 10 minutes and handed over authority of the scene to Detective Paula Dance, in accordance to the Sheriff's standard operating procedures. When I left the scene I was under the impression that the State Bureau of Investigation would be called to assist in the investigation. As we all know, that never occurred. The Sheriff took command of the investigation and later forced Detective Dance out of office because she persisted in her efforts to call in the SBI.
In response to the allegations that the Sheriff did not hire Ms. Pollard. The Sheriff did re-hire Ms. Pollard when he was sworn into office in December 1998. Every Sheriff must extend an offer of service to all sworn deputies. When Sheriff Manning took office, he extended an offer of service to Deputy Pollard in 1998. Furthermore, he promoted Ms. Pollard to Lt. Deputy after she had failed a polygraph test. That action alone makes me question the Sheriff's integrity.
Let's face it, we have a major problem with integrity in the Pitt County Sheriff's Office. The Pitt County Sheriff's office belongs to the people of Pitt County and we need to clean it up.
I will restore the public's trust and confidence in the Sheriff's office. I have nearly 30-years of law enforcement experience and I can tell you that I will hold my deputies and staff to the highest ethical standards - upholding the values of honor, character and integrity as we execute the duties of the Office of Sheriff.