ASHE COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - The Ashe County Sheriff resigned as part of a deal with the District Attorney months after he was indicted by a grand jury on charges related to mishandling a public records request from WBTV.
Sheriff Terry Buchanan was indicted in October on three counts of felony obstruction of justice and three counts of misdemeanor willful failure to discharge duties.
Since April 2017, WBTV has been investigating Buchanan and the Ashe County Commissioners' vote to appoint him to sheriff this past January. The station submitted a request for communication records - including emails and text messages - from the county commissioners and Buchanan in early April.
WBTV submitted a second request for additional communication records from Buchanan and Commissioner Jeff Rose in July.
Buchanan responded to WBTV's April request in remarks at a county commissioners meeting just weeks after receiving the letter.
"We don't have time for this," Buchanan told the commissioners of WBTV's public records request in April. "Everything we have is (sic) public document but this takes away from all of our jobs; takes away from my job."
Ultimately, Buchanan used county funds to hire a private attorney to help him respond to WBTV's records request.
Later, Buchanan ordered his deputies to investigate three county employees who attempted to access his text messages in an attempt to fulfill WBTV's request.
That move by the sheriff prompted District Attorney Tom Horner to step in, stop the county investigation and launch a state inquiry.
As a condition of his October release, Buchanan had to surrender his Sheriff's Office vehicle, county cell phone, county master key and any other county property in his possession.
In addition to the criminal charges, a judge also granted a request from District Attorney Tom Horner to suspend Buchanan from office with pay pending a full hearing to have him removed from office. This hearing was nullified by Monday morning's resignation.
Ashe County Attorney John Kilby said Buchanan's criminal charges will be dismissed as part of the deal presented to commissioners on Monday morning.
Buchanan resigned in exchange for the charges being dropped. Kilby also said Buchanan has agreed not to run in upcoming election for sheriff.
During their meeting Monday morning, commissioners voted to add $71,000 to their legal budget related to additional expenses stemming from the pending agreement with Buchanan.
The county is paying the $71,009 in exchange for Buchanan and his wife releasing the county from any potential future legal claim.