NORTHWEST — Though the Northwest Fire Chief denies he physically assaulted his wife, Charles Herzig pleaded guilty to the charge this week in Brunswick County Criminal Court.
He remains chief of the Northwest Volunteer Fire Department.
On Wednesday, Herzig entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the Brunswick County District Attorney’s Office. According to Amanda Bullard, spokesperson for the office, the case will be revisited in April 2020. The agreement is subject to certain stipulations, Bullard said, including avoiding additional criminal charges for one year.
If Herzig meets the terms of the agreement, his charges will be retroactively dropped.
Herzig was arrested on Sept. 20, 2018. A warrant for his arrest includes a narrative that Herzig allegedly grabbed his wife by the arms and wrists and punched her in the eye and mouth. The incident occurred at his home in Reigelwood.
When reached on the phone Thursday, Herzig said the contents of the warrant are not factual. “Nothing happened,” he said. “I did not do anything. And that’s where we’re at.”
No one witnessed the alleged altercation, Herzig said. He said he is no longer in a relationship with his wife.
“I’m not going to bash Mrs. Herzig in any way,” Herzig said, regarding his denial of the claims. “That’s not my game.”
Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office incident records show Herzig was also booked on Dec. 12, 2018, on the same charge with a different mugshot from his September arrest. However, Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Emily Flax said her records show he was not arrested on Dec. 12 and that he appeared in District Court on that date. According to Herzig, this was a technical error, and not the result of an additional incident.
District Attorney’s Office spokesperson said Herzig pleaded guilty on one count of assault on a female this week.
On March 3, 2017, Herzig was charged with assault and battery in New Hanover County. That charge was dismissed, according to Bullard.
Northwest fire board
The City of Northwest does not have its own fire department. As of the 2010 U.S. Census, the small Brunswick County town had a population of less than 1,000. Its fire services are provided by the volunteer department and surrounding municipalities. The Northwest Volunteer Fire Department is governed by its board of directors. Its funding comes from contract agreements signed with Brunswick County, according to Herzig.
Herzig said the topic of his continued employment is revisited at each monthly board meeting. Herzig also noted that there is good news at the department; in July, Herzig said the department’s fire rating will decrease, which will lower insurance rates for residents in the area.
The board is comprised of five non-staff members. Three non-voting seats are available to the City of Northwest, Sandy Creek and Brunswick County, though Herzig said those seats are never occupied. David Selke, the board’s director, said he is aware of Herzig’s recent sentencing. On Monday, Selke said he set up a special meeting with the board to discuss Herzig’s continued employment. The board will meet Monday evening, Selke said.
The Northwest Volunteer Fire Department must meet certain standards enforced by the Office of State Fire Marshall. However, according to Department of Insurance spokesperson Barry Smith, the state does not govern the department’s personnel matters.
“A personnel decision like that is up to the local folks,” Smith said. Northwest Volunteer Fire Department — a non-profit — is governed by its board of directors or the Brunswick County Commissioners, Smith said.
According to Brunswick County District Attorney’s Office spokesperson, it’s not uncommon for criminal defendants to plead guilty to charges they deny are true.
“Sometimes defendants will take a deferred prosecution because the view it as advantageous to avoid a jury trial,” Bullard said.
Update: Information about the board of the Northwest Fire Department’s special meeting was provided on Monday, April 15, by David Selke.
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