***EDITOR’S NOTE: The remarks by Sheriff Duncan in this post came after this week’s press time, and thus will not appear in the article on the flag case, “Duncan Refuses to Release Flag Investigation Results,” in the Aug. 15 issue of Mountain Xpress.***
Records released by the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office this afternoon show that Deputy Brian Scarborough, who came under fire for his handling of the controversial flag desecration arrests of a West Asheville couple, has not been demoted, suspended, transferred or fired. (See an image of the document at right.)
The records, which show Scarborough’s basic employment status, show no changes except a 4 percent raise given on July 7 — three weeks before the July 25 arrests. The charges stemming from the incident were dropped on Aug. 3.
Sheriff Van Duncan, invoking state public-records law, has refused to release the findings of the internal investigation or the specifics of any disciplinary action taken. The public records only show such action if it involves a change in the deputy’s status or position.
Duncan’s interpretation of state open-records law has been contradicted by Hugh Stevens, counsel for the North Carolina Press Association, who has said Duncan can release the investigation results.
Yesterday, the couple arrested in the case, Deborah and Mark Kuhn, expressed their disappointment with the Sheriff’s Office’s refusal to release the investigation results. They have said that if Scarborough receives only “a slap on the hand,” then “the door is open” to possible legal action.
However, Duncan did tell Xpress today that it was clear that Scarborough and his supervisor, Sgt. Caton McBride, had acted wrongly in the case.
“We knew that even before the internal investigation, that’s why the charges were dropped,” he said. “Moving forward on a statute like that, especially when it’s a complaint from a National Guard friend, was not a good move. He should have gone further up the chain and gotten more information. Also, we give nonemergency calls [in Asheville] that don’t take place in front of an officer to the Asheville Police Deparment.”
McBride had approved Scarborough issuing the Kuhns a citation for flag desecration under a rarely enforced 1917 statute.
As for questions about the accuracy of Scarborough’s report, Duncan said that “virtually every part of it matched up with what our investigators found out from witnesses.”
Duncan was then asked about Scarborough’s assertion in his report that Mark Kuhn had slammed the door on his hand, breaking a pane of glass and giving Scarborough cause to enter the house.
The Kuhns, as well as witnesses and neighbors, have said that the door was closed and Scarborough punched out the pane of glass before entering the house.
“That’s one of the things I can’t talk about,” Duncan said.
— David Forbes, staff writer