A furor engulfing the Lincoln County sheriff's office shows no signs of waning.
Reports have surfaced questioning whether Chief Deputy Barry Taylor still had use of county vehicles even after he was suspended from the department.
Taylor was disciplined in mid-July after being charged with helping an acquaintance avoid a 2007 drunken driving arrest.
Lake Norman newspaper news@norman last week published a photo (above) of "a Dodge Charger that Taylor drove while on duty - and a pickup truck with “Bloodhound” on the side ... photographed parked at the house of his girlfriend." Editor and Publisher Ken Fortenberry said the photos were taken last Wednesday afternoon, and the vehicles were still there Thursday afternoon at 5 p.m.
Another news outlet, the Lincoln Times-News, then reported that "after the pictures surfaced Thursday on the Internet, the vehicles apparently were moved."
This week, the county commission weighed in, apparently taking aim at the controversy.
The Lincoln Tribune reports: "County Commissioners enacted a new policy on Monday night to require all county employees to surrender county vehicles as soon as they are suspended or put on administrative leave."
Adding to the photographic flap: this WSOC-TV story, which quotes Sheriff Tim Daugherty saying "the cars were taken from Taylor right after he placed his No. 2 in command on suspension on July 17."
So what's next?
Fortenberry reports that commission chairman Alex Patton has scheduled a news conference for Friday at 10 a.m., possibly to address the matter.
But there's more behind the story.
A media storm has cropped up.
First, Lincoln Times-News Managing Editor Frank Taylor has accused news web site The Carolina Scoop of plagiarism.
The stories themselves are not directly related to the sheriff's matter.
But Carolina Scoop site publisher Jon Mayhew worked as a spokesman for Sheriff Daugherty when he published a story that Taylor said closely resembles something written by one of his staff writers.
Taylor tells Paper Trail that this image, published in the Lake Norman Bath blog, accurately depicts words from a July 22 Times-News story about a murder trial that appeared in a July 24 Carolina Scoop story. Taylor filed a complaint last Monday with Lincolnton police.
Mayhew did not respond to an email and phone call seeking comment.
The other media development involves Mayhew and Fortenberry, the news@norman publisher.
Mayhew filed a Lincolnton police complaint last week accusing Fortenberry of harassment. Mayhew said Fortenberry contacted him after he asked him not to. Mayhew said Fortbenerry had threatened legal action against him.
Fortenberry (right) is accustomed to such battles.
He achieved publicity in the 1980s as the crusading editor of a weekly newspaper in McCormick, S.C. that took on the local sheriff.
This 1987 New York Times story recalls the Fortenberry family's arrival to the small town:
"They arrived in July 1985, and the good feeling lasted for about two weeks, until Mr. Fortenberry went to the sheriff's office to ask to see the jail log, a list he thought would be well read.
The retired sheriff, J. Preston Gable, who was there, told him it was none of his business, Mr. Fortenberry said. The next day, when the editor went back after checking the public records law with the State Attorney General's office, the sheriff, Jimmy Gable, the former sheriff's son, ''told me he didn't give a damn what the law was. He said, 'There's the door. Go out it. Or I'll put you out the door.' ''
Fortenberry wrote a book, "Kill the Messenger: One Man's Fight Against Bigotry and Greed," about his time there.
Asked by Paper Trail about his experiences then and now, Fortenberry said:
"Different venue, same sad story. Sheriffs who don’t play by the rules."
- Doug Miller