The choice for Chatham County Sheriff is between an incumbent law enforcement veteran who views himself as a steady, unifying presence in the county and a challenger who sees himself as a necessary disruptor to an office which has suffered under failed leadership.
Their approach is reflected in their campaigning.
That challenger, Marcus Globuschutz, a Republican, has used social media to portray Sheriff Mike Roberson, a Democrat, as someone who uses “smoke and mirrors” to create an image that the former describes, in a series of Facebook posts, as “fake.”
Globuschutz’s online campaign has been unrelenting, calling Roberson “irresponsible and careless,” saying he’s been wasteful with county resources, ignored the county’s drug trade, and has even taken authority away from deputies trying to prosecute crimes. Roberson has used social media to show the activity of his staff and office but not directly addressed Globuschutz’s charges on those platforms.
“When you have a department here that says you cannot do ‘X’ and you can’t do ‘Y’ and you handcuff your staff, it’s not their fault,” Globuschutz told the News + Record. “I can’t sit here and criticize Deputy Jones or Deputy — whatever their last name is — when they can’t do their job because the administration says, ‘Nope.’”
“I am going to make you, the citizens of Chatham County, and your safety my main priority,” Globuschutz proclaimed in a Sept. 27 Facebook post. “This will be done by putting more deputies on the streets and taking the drug dealers and criminals off of the streets. Together, we will again make crime illegal.”
Roberson, who is seeking re-election to the office for a second time, said he’s chosen not to respond to the charges Globuschutz makes through social media because doing so, on that platform, is “beneath the office.” He campaigns face to face and addresses questions when he gets them, he said.
“I told Marcus I was not going to run a negative race, and I’ve stuck to that,” Roberson said. “And I mean that. I just think running that type of race … I just think it’s beneath the office that you’re running for. I think it lowers people’s expectation of having trust in government. And it’s a lot easier to tear a barn down than it is to build it. So, you know, it’s real easy to lob grenades.”
He said he wished there were more “statesmen and stateswomen” in politics.
“And I want to do more of what I have tried to do the whole time I’ve been here — to represent everybody,” Roberson said. “And I have to work harder with the ones who don’t think that I do. And I think if you go back and look at the things we’ve been at [referencing outreach he says his office has done], I’ve done that on purpose, because I want him to know that I’m your sheriff, too, and whether you like us, didn’t vote for us, whatever it is, we still have the same responsibility to everybody in the county. That’s the role we took in the beginning. And that’s what I plan on sticking with.”
For his part, Globuschutz insists his posts aren’t attacks.
“I told Mike I wouldn’t attack him personally,” he said.
Rather, Globuschutz describes his diatribes as “strictly business.”
“His stance on how he runs the sheriff’s office, he can take that personally or not,” he said. “That’s all business. Everything about the sheriff’s office is strictly business. I haven’t said anything about him personally ... You know, I don’t have a problem with Mike outside of, in my opinion, things could be done differently.”
When presented, though, with some of Globuschutz’s more frequent criticisms, Roberson does respond.
• Globuschutz has repeatedly claimed Roberson’s primary focus is public relations and the sheriff’s own image, rather than law enforcement; that Roberson is more concerned about his own Facebook page than fighting crime.
“People are going to elect you for doing what you’re doing, not the image you’re trying to portray,” Globuschutz said. “There’s more to law enforcement than just setting up a tent, giving out sunglasses to the kids and putting a sticker on there and having somebody take your picture, smile and holding the baby.”
Roberson: “Law enforcement cannot effectively address the needs of the community without being engaged, accessible and present at important community functions,” he said. What Globuschutz describes as “unofficial politicking” on Roberson’s part is, in Roberson’s view, part of what makes community policing work.
“This is true that community policing does involve recognizing that police cannot solve crime alone and that more can be achieved through community/police partnerships,” Roberson said. “Aggressive, traditional policing tactics are ineffective at solving crime and tend to have a negative impact on the community. However, the concept of community policing has come a long way since its inception and continues to evolve as societal expectations change and expand.”
Globuschutz cited one example where he counted 11 deputies in a Sheriff’s Office festival booth, which he said left only three deputies to patrol during the duration of the festival.
That’s partially correct, Roberson said.
“He’s alluding to the Annual Flatwoods Festival and parade in Bennett,” he said. “Seven of our staff on site were responsible for safety and traffic control during the parade; other staff members stopped by with their family members to enjoy the event or offer relief to those who had been on their feet for long periods. Any one of our sworn deputies could have left the event in an instant in case of emergency; our supervisors always ensure ample coverage to respond to calls for service. If more deputies are requested, we will gladly send them; however, we will not neglect residents or their families by limiting the number of officers who can visit a neighborhood at a given time, especially in support of a beloved, family-friendly gathering like the Flatwoods Festival.”
Roberson said there’s an international demand for culture change in policing, but Chatham County is already well ahead of the curve thanks to community programs and relationships created years and years ago in previous administrations.
“Trust cannot be built overnight or in a crisis; the high level of engagement we currently enjoy has been carefully cultivated over decades and must continue to be nurtured in order to thrive,” he said. “The work we do at the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office involves finding unique, consistent, and authentic ways to connect with the community. With the exception of some of our annual charity events, the community events we attend are not typically hosted by the Sheriff’s Office — meaning our presence at such events was specifically requested and welcomed by a community member or organizer. We will not reject residents’ requests for us to join or support a community gathering simply because someone else may not understand its connection to our mission. We must do all we can to support the loving, respectful relationships we have worked so hard to develop.”
• Globuschutz’s criticisms of the county’s Animal Resource Center, and Roberson’s operation of it, include poor service, health risks and squandered resources.
Roberson says his office was asked to take over operation of the ARC for several years, and when he agreed, he wasn’t given the manpower he’s requested in his annual budget submission to the county to meet operational efficiencies.
Still, Roberson says, the ARC is making a positive impact for animals and families across the county. He cites euthanasia rates that have been cut in half and adoption rates that have doubled since the Sheriff’s Office annexed the division in June 2019. He says it’s important to understand that when his office agreed to assume the operation of the ARC, he told the county he needed more support to make it work.
“You know, in working with this, it was worse than what I thought,” he said. “People weren’t responding because there wasn’t enough manpower. Three directors before then told them they needed nine more staffing right now — and that’s with the old building. ‘We need nine more people, we need nine more people,’ and they never got the staffing.
“When we took it over, we didn’t get the nine people, either. Then the new building comes. And if you look back, and I think it was around February of 2017 when they authorized to build the building, I stood in front in a public hearing and asked the commissioners to not build a new building unless you could fund the positions that we already needed. And they funded the building without the positions.”
Roberson said it was like being handed a brand new car — just without tires.
“And so the building is beautiful,” he said. “And what [Globuschutz] talks a lot about is $5.5 million building. He doesn’t talk about the staffing that needs to come with a new building.”
Roberson says his office has increased standards at the ARC — including state standards not met in prior years — and he’s grateful for the work done there. But even he’s still not happy about the ARC’s deliverables.
“And I will tell you, it’ll take me two or three more years, we’re going to run the best animal shelter in the state,” he said.
Now, though, because of not being allocated the positions he’s requested, operation of the ARC is “like pouring milk in a jug.”
“You can’t pour it in but so fast,” Roberson said. “And so you’ve got to figure out that the outlet somehow has to be bigger than inlet. And so sometimes we have to squeeze down on the inlet if the outlet isn’t big enough.”
• Globuschutz said an investigator assigned to a drug task force was suddenly moved out of the position, weakening the department’s efforts to fight the illicit drug trade. Roberson said that while it’s true he has an investigator assigned to a drug task force, it’s not true that he had been moved from that position — which that investigator has held since 2015.
“This investigator continues to serve as a senior member of both the task force and our investigations team, and has contributed his exceptional investigative skills to both the residents of Chatham County and the state of North Carolina,” he said. “Narcotics investigations frequently cross county and state jurisdictional lines, so his position as a state task force member has strengthened our communication and partnership with other agencies as well as elevated the number of resources at our disposal for various operations.”
• Among his numerous criticisms of Roberson’s ability to hire and retain strong staff, Globuschutz spoke at length to the News + Record about 13 new hires being announced in a single month — saying that by the time they’d gone to rookie school and had swearing in, only three were left, with the others taking their “free” training and scoring jobs elsewhere.
Roberson counters these claims, saying they are “patently false.”
“It is unclear where these numbers originated,” he said. “… We routinely announce new hires to the public as a way to celebrate their milestone and welcome them to the Sheriff’s Office family. However, it is a misconception that all of our new hires are ‘sworn’ or destined for BLET [Basic Law Enforcement Training]. All employees, regardless of their work assignments, take an oath with us within a week of their hiring date; only a portion of those employees go on to train as deputies.”
For example, he said, some new hires are civilians who might work with the public while others are assigned to the Detention or Animal Resource Centers.
“There are many opportunities for specialization or advancement within our agency beyond serving as a sworn deputy,” Roberson said.
Globuschutz also said more than 100 deputies had retired or resigned from the Sheriff’s Office in the last year and a half at a conservative cost to the department of $25,000 each in costs of training and equipment — meaning the squandering of $2.5 million.
“Clearly, this claim is false,” Roberson said. “The entire Chatham County Sheriff’s Office only has a total of 108 sworn officers [including Roberson]. This would mean nearly 100% of our sworn staff has turned over in the last year.”
It hasn’t, Roberson said. He said vacancies in his office are at about 18% — about average, nationwide, he said, and a number higher than it seems because of new positions allocated in the county’s most recent budget that haven’t been filled yet.
• Globuschutz has criticized slow response, or lack of response, to calls for assistance made to the Sheriff’s Office.
Roberson said he wasn’t aware of anyone that has asked the Sheriff’s Office to come to their home or for assistance that they haven’t responded to, and that if Globuschutz has the contact information of individuals for whom that is the case, he’d like to reach out to them.
“’I’ve heard,’” Roberson said, “is the game of whether or not it’s true. And I don’t know of anybody we’ve not responded to … You know, if he has those people’s names, I’d like to know who they are.
Roberson said his work as a Sheriff isn’t finished. He says he’s working on accreditation through the national Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies; only nine N.C. Sheriff’s Offices have earned that designation, and Chatham County is listed on the organization’s website as one of three counties in the “self-assessment” stage. The program focuses on an agency’s integrity, accountability and transparency.
“We’re holding ourselves to a higher level or a higher bar,” he said.
Globuschutz insists that he, not Roberson, is the candidate who can take the office to the next level.
“You know, at the end of the day, the buck stops with the Sheriff,” he said. “If a deputy does something, they are a extension of the Sheriff. You know, if somebody dies in the jail, whoever didn’t do their job, or whoever, if it’s natural cause, or whatever — whatever the case may be, the responsibility still stops at the sheriff.”
The sheriff is ultimately responsible for the office, Globuschutz said.
“It’s the highest elected position in this county, and as the sheriff, you are the first line of defense of the Constitution,” he said. “And I take that position, and I take that responsibility, very, very serious.”
Roberson says he does, too — and has.
“I love helping people and want to continue to serve my home community,” he said. “I look forward to building on the successes we have already accomplished together and will continue to unite residents around shared goals and values.”
Last week’s stories featured profiles on both candidates for Chatham County Sheriff; to see the candidates’ responses to questionnaires, go to www.chathamnewsrecord.com/elections.