Commission remains undecided on drug testing

Jon Michael Bosley

There has been no random drug testing of county employees in Pocahontas County for more than two years. During its meeting last Tuesday evening, the Pocahontas County Commission remained largely undecided on how or whether to resume testing.

A policy approved by the commission in 2010 mandates drug testing of “safety sensitive” employees, including any employee who drives a county vehicle.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the government may conduct suspicionless drug tests only of employees in safety-sensitive jobs, such as air traffic controllers or nuclear power plant operators, whose job functions, if done improperly, would cause specific and potentially catastrophic threats to the public safety.

In Kanawha County, the school board attempted to expand the definition of “safety-sensitive” to include teachers and nearly all public school employees. The U.S. District Court for Southern West Virginia struck down the proposed suspicion-less drug testing of teachers as unconstitutional.

“A train, nuclear reactor, or firearm in the hands of someone on drugs presents an actual concrete risk to numerous people – the same cannot be said for a teacher wielding a history textbook,” Chief Judge Joseph R. Goodwin wrote in his order.

Last month, Commissioner David Fleming said he wanted drug testing to resume and asked Prosecuting Attorney Eugene Simmons to draft a policy for selecting names.

The commission reviewed Simmons’ proposed selection policy Tuesday evening. Under that policy, employees would be assigned numbers and numbers would be drawn from a box by a commissioner and the commission clerk. But the discussion of drug testing ranged wider than the selection procedure.

Commissioners were uncertain if the Sheriff’s Department, or employees working for other elected officials, would be part of the program. If not, only employees working directly for the commission, primarily 911 Center employees, would be subject to the policy.

“As far as the law enforcement, that’s something that Sheriff Jonese is going to be testing himself, is that correct?” asked Fleming.

“I recall that the last time that we adopted this policy, he didn’t want to participate in the drug testing,” replied Commission Assistant Sue Helton.

Sheriff David Jonese told The Pocahontas Times last week that his department would participate in the County Commission drug testing program, if it resumes.

Fleming recommended a memo to county elected officials.

“I’d like us to send a memo to the elected officials and let them know we are re-instituting the drug testing procedure and if you, as an elected official, want your safety-sensitive employees, if you have any, to participate in our drug testing, please let us know,” said Fleming.

Commissioner Jamie Walker inquired about the need for a drug testing program.

“Is the county required to have a drug testing policy by the state?” asked Walker.

“No, there’s no requirement,” replied Fleming.

“Why are we doing something?” asked Walker.

“At the time we implemented this, we had a large indication from the public that they wanted to see drug testing,” said Fleming.

Walker said state law requires him to take drug tests because he is a school bus driver, but that he opposes a county program not mandated by the state.

“I kind of disagree with the whole thing, really, if you’re not mandated to do it and there’s no set thing that says you have to do this,” he said.

Fleming said the commission could repeal the current drug testing policy.

Commissioner William Beard said the policy should remain in place.

“I don’t think that we should dissolve it because there could be a situation where it may be needed to be in place,” he said. “I’m like Mr. Walker. It would be nice if there’s something from the state that says we need to do a random test once a year or twice a year,” he said.

The commission approved a memorandum to other elected officials to gauge their desire to participate in the drug testing program.

In other business, the commission:
– Approved a $2,591 contribution to Pocahontas County High School Future Business Leaders of America;
– Approved a $2,000 contribution to the Northern Pocahontas County Food Pantry, pending proof of non-profit status;
– Approved a sheep kill claim of $1,050.
– Heard a presentation from Jon Michael Bosley on his uncle Bruce Bosley’s accomplishments as a student, citizen and NFL football player. See a feature article on Bruce Bosley in next week’s edition of The Pocahontas Times.





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