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Police chief married to registered sex offender

Roseboro officials say the past of Interim Police Chief Anita Merritt's husband will have no bearing on her work, but some residents are uncomfortable.

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ROSEBORO, N.C. — Some town residents are upset that the husband of Interim Police Chief Anita Merritt is a registered sex offender, saying her relationship with a convicted felon is a conflict of interest.

Tyrone Merritt, 36, was convicted in Massachusetts in March 2001 of taking indecent liberties with a child in connection with a May 1999 incident. He was sentenced to probation.

The incident occurred before Anita Merritt married her husband and before she joined the Roseboro Police Department in September 2004.

"Anything that happened to him has no reflection on me or my character or on my job," said Anita Merritt, who was sworn in as police chief Thursday.

"He's made one bad choice in his life, and he's paid his debt to society," she said. "Anyone who knows my husband knows he’s a wonderful man.”

The police department has known about Tyrone Merritt's conviction since his wife joined the force, Mayor Roland Hall said. But he said he first learned of the matter Wednesday while discussing Anita Merritt's salary.

None of the members of the Roseboro Board of Commissioners were aware of the conviction when they unanimously approved promoting Anita Merritt to interim police chief, Hall said. Outgoing Chief Preston Howell didn't mention it because he felt there was no cause for concern, Hall said.

"I think he should have informed the board and myself," Hall said.

Still, the town board has no plans to discuss the matter further, he said.

"The consensus of opinion for those I've talked with is that his record should not adversely impact her ability to do her job," he said. “She has done an excellent job as a police officer in her department, and I have no complaints whatsoever about her performance."

Residents in the town of 1,500 remain split over the issue.

"I still have a problem with it," resident Ann Patterson said. "I just don't think she should be down there."

"We have to look at her. She's the one who has to be police chief," resident Hilda Royal said. "Look how long she’s been here, and it hasn’t affected her performance."

"We all err in life, but I don’t think it’s a problem,” resident Rick Melvin said.