C. Philip Byers is a former Rutherford County Sheriff who was appointed to the BOG in 2015 by the House.
Byers served as Rutherford County Sheriff from 1994-2006 when he lost his reelection bid. Two years later testimony and evidence in a US District Court linked Byers, when he was Chief Deputy, to bribes from video poker machine operator Jeffrey Childers to avoid prosecution for shooting a man. Allegedly, Childers also bribed Byers once he was Sheriff so that he could keep operating illegal video poker machines. Byers, however, “denied ever taking any money from video poker operators or anyone else during his or Good’s administration.”
An audit by a retired SBI agent found that more than 700 unsolved cases from Byers’ tenure as Sheriff were left in boxes. This resulted in a revision of 2006 county crime statistics and a total loss of more than $200,000 for those affected by the incidents. Sheriff Jack Conner said “the boxes of reports give the impression that cases that were considered not solvable for lack of evidence were placed in the boxes and not recorded into the system. Such a practice would provide a lower crime count total than actually existed.”
In 2012, despite evidence of suppressing crime statistics, Byers was appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory to serve on his “Public Safety and Law Enforcement Transition Team.”
After his law enforcement career ended, Byers became involved in the controversial charter school movement. He has deep connections to the Challenge Foundation and John Bryan, a wealthy conservative donor who funds the charter network Team CFA based in Oregon. Bryan has used his $37 million family trust, the Challenge Foundation, not only to fund and spread the conservative “school choice” movement across the country, but also to back right-wing causes like challenging global warming research. In 2006, Byers became the Executive Director of the Thomas Jefferson Community Education Foundation, a Challenge Foundation academy. He then became Board Chairman and Founding Board Member at Lake Lure Classical Academy, a Challenge Foundation Academy, in 2009.
He has since served on the board of multiple Challenge Foundation schools. In May 2011, he joined the board of Parents for Educational Freedom of North Carolina along with BOG members Darrell Allison and Rob Bryan. Byers served as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy and Executive Director of the Thomas Jefferson Community Education Foundation, both tied to John Bryan. Byers currently serves as President for Challenge Foundation Properties, a charter school building consulting service.