‘Very sad.’ Colleague reacts to DWI arrest of fellow Rowan County commissioner

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ROWAN COUNTY, NC (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – A day after the release of body camera footage showing the DWI arrest of Rowan County Commissioner Craig Pierce, FOX 46 is fighting to see if the county plans to hold him accountable.

The video shows Commissioner Pierce failing numerous roadside sobriety tests and threatening to remove funding from the Salisbury Police Department. An officer in the video says Pierce blew a 0.27 during a breathalyzer test. That’s more than three times the legal limit.

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Video shows Rowan County commissioner threatening to defund police during DUI arrest

“I’m not telling you how to do your job,” Pierce says in the video, “I’m just telling you I’m going to make sure you don’t have the funding to do your job if this is how you’re going to treat people.”

FOX 46’s Northeast Bureau Chief Sydney Heiberger and Photojournalist Brian Christiansen went to Pierce’s home to see if he would comment on the video and the comments he made in it. His wife answered the door and abruptly slammed it when she saw it was the media. She then called the Rowan County Sheriff’s Department, who told the journalists they weren’t breaking any laws by being on a public street.

This is what happened when we tried to get Rowan County Commissioner Craig Pierce to comment on newly released bodycam video showing his arrest for DWI. The video shows him threaten to remove funding from @SalisburyNCPD and fire the arresting officer.
His wife answered the door. pic.twitter.com/SRZp38KoxA

— Sydney Heiberger FOX 46 (@SydneyFOX46) August 24, 2021

Heiberger also reached out to the County Manager, County Attorney, Salisbury PD, Pierce’s Defense Attorney, and every Rowan County commissioner. The County Manager’s office said he is on vacation the entire week. The County Attorney said he does not comment on matters pertaining to commissioners. Salisbury PD says they will not comment on the matter. The only person who agreed to speak was Commissioner Judy Klusman.

“I’m very sad for Commissioner Pierce. He has been a very hard worker on the Commission and I hope that things can work out for him and that he can get the help he needs,” she said.

When asked if she is concerned about Pierce’s ability to hold public office, Klusman said she is not concerned.

“When you’re drunk, you say a lot of things,” she said.

While County Attorney Jay Dees said he would not comment on matters pertaining to commissioners, he did say in his 16 years of office, he was unaware of any official discussion to remove any elected commissioners.

“Unless there is a felony committed, there’s nothing the commission can do. The only thing that can happen is Commissioner Pierce, if he decides to, can step down,” said Klusman.

In North Carolina, it is very difficult to remove an elected county commissioner unless they commit a felony or move out of their jurisdiction. A county government has only tried to remove an elected commissioner a handful of times in the State’s history, using a common law practice known as “amotion.” In several cases, the issue made it up to the North Carolina Supreme Court.

A judge ordered the release of the body camera footage after The Salisbury Post and Gray Television filed a lawsuit.

Pierce is scheduled to appear in court in September.

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