Warrant: Shipwash used state computers to create campaign flyers – News – The Dispatch

Former Clerk of Superior Court Brian Shipwash used state computers and office material to create campaign flyers for the Republican county commissioners primary and materials for his own campaign in May 2018, according to a search warrant obtained by the State Bureau of Investigation. 

The search warrant was for “embezzlement of state property by public officers and employees” and violating a law concerning “appropriate political activity of state employees,” specifically against Shipwash. Four hard drives from printers and copiers were seized from the Davidson County Clerk of Court’s office on Feb. 15.

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Shipwash resigned Feb. 18 and District Attorney Garry Frank confirmed the investigation had ended. Joretta Black was appointed as the interim clerk of court.

Frank said there are also unsealed documents in Wake County, which are similar to the search warrant that was retrieved from the clerk’s office.

Reached by telephone Thursday morning, Shipwash declined to comment.

The search warrant, obtained by SBI Special Agent M.G. Johnston, allege Shipwash used state property to print out flyers that said “HONEST, TRANSPARENT, CITIZEN FOCUSED COUNTY COMMISSIONERS,” with James Shores, Craig Smith and Chris Elliott listed under the heading. The last line said, “Vote ANYONE BUT Todd Yates.”

Yates, who is a Davidson County commissioner, and Shipwash had clashed over renovations at the Davidson County Courthouse and whether to put the clerk’s office in the former Windstream building. Yates’ girlfriend, Leigh Truelove, ran against Shipwash in the Republican primary for clerk of court.

Jennifer Shipwash, who separated from Shipwash in May 2018, reported to the SBI on June 14, 2018, that Shipwash printed flyers for his re-election campaign at work and gave them to employees to distribute. She estimated that 15,000 flyers were given to employees. 

Jennifer Shipwash said in an interview with the SBI that on July 17, 2018, Shipwash asked her to take a picture of their home printer and say he printed flyers using that printer instead of the one at the clerk’s office as an alibi.

In a recording made by Jennifer Shipwash on July 17, 2018, the court documents say, Shipwash can be heard saying that he printed the flyers himself and that he printed them from the work computer. Later in the recording, Shipwash called Wendi Carter, an employee, and told her he bought paper from Walmart so they could not be accused of using paper at the clerk’s office.

In a telephone call Jennifer Shipwash recorded on July 18, the documents say, Shipwash can be heard criticizing Jennifer Shipwash for sending text messages instead of calling him. He tells her to “just be smart” and not send anything by text. He goes on to say that if she wants a monthly payment of $2,100, “you’ll be smarter than this or it won’t be there for you to have.”

The search warrant does not make clear what Shipwash was referring to when discussing money.

In a text message on July 21, 2018, Jennifer Shipwash told the SBI, “He said if they find anything campaign related it’s just a misdemeanor, so I’m not worried. … He said if the SBI goes digging, they may find some stuff on my work computer but most everything is on my laptop.”

Jennifer Shipwash claimed that Whitney Carney, an employee at the clerk’s office who also previously worked for Yates, helped Shipwash with printing the flyers because she was his personal assistant.

In an interview with the SBI, Carney said she knew nothing about the flyers and that she did not make, design or distribute the flyers.

Carney told the SBI that Shipwash put other blank papers on her desk to cut. She prepared slips of paper for campaign bags during work hours. Carney said the only campaign-related activity she did during working hours was preparing the bags.

In the interview, Carney described Shipwash as a “borderline stalker and definitely obsessive.” She told officials that she had to tell Shipwash to leave her alone several times.

Jennifer Shipwash told the SBI that Shipwash was worried about Carney telling SBI about campaign slides, which was a digital slide show created by Carney. She claimed that Carney and Shipwash worked on the slides on a state computer and that Shipwash is not allowed to use state computers for anything campaign related. The slides included campaign videos.

She also told the SBI that Shipwash attempted to start a new policy and use time violations to fire Carney. Jennifer Shipwash said she believed Shipwash may be afraid of sexual harassment claims from Carney because Carney told Jennifer Shipwash that he had pursued her.

When interviewed by the SBI, Shipwash said he typed the information on the flyers and showed the SBI a receipt for the paper he purchased from Walmart. During the interview, he alluded to Yates, the county commissioner, being the reason for the investigation taking place.

The SBI asked Shipwash what printer was used to create the flyers, and Shipwash’s attorney intervened and said the interview was over, according to the search warrant.


Ben Coley can be reached at (336) 249-3981, ext. 227 or at [email protected]. Follow Ben on Twitter: @LexDispatchBC


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