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Sheriff's Oath Has To Wait A Day For Approval Of His Bond

Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden

Garry McFadden was scheduled to be sworn in as Mecklenburg County's first black sheriff on Monday. But he had to wait a day because of a formality: The county commission must first approve a $25,000 bond required by state law. As McFadden prepares to make history, we take a look at this little-known law with its own history.   

Sheriff's bonds have long been required in many states. North Carolina's law dates from 1806, back when some sheriffs also collected taxes. The general statutes in 1908 said bonds were needed "to protect public revenue and to ensure its honest collections."

These days, sheriff’s collections are mainly related to legal judgments.

"The sheriff comes into possession of people's property. And the bond was to protect the public if the sheriff violated their oath," said Eddie Caldwell, executive vice president and general counsel for the North Carolina Sheriffs' Association.

Seizures can include real estate, vehicles and other personal property. A defendant has the right to sue if a sheriff's office mishandles any money or property seized, Caldwell said.

"Certain circumstances where somebody feels like the sheriff has not served a paper or not carried out their duties correctly, then they can file an action against the sheriff's bond to be … made whole," he said.

But that doesn't happen very often, Caldwell said.

"I do not have any data, but based on just talking to sheriffs and following any litigation involving sheriffs, I would say it is … very rare," he said.

As for the bonds themselves, they come from companies around the country that specialize in liability insurance. McFadden got his $25,000 bond (Mecklenburg County requires the maximum under state law) from a company called Platte River Insurance in Middleton, Wisconsin.

McFadden said he had planned to be sworn in Monday. That was before he realized he would have to wait until the commission's vote Tuesday night.

He’ll take the oath afterward, at 6:30 p.m. in a ceremony at First Presbyterian Church on West Trade Street.

McFadden was unopposed for sheriff in the November election. That came after he beat fellow challenger Antoine Ensley and incumbent sheriff Irwin Carmichael in May's Democratic primary. 


NCSheriffs.org, "History of the Sheriff"