Special Commission updates

Cailey Moore
Staff Writer

Following its February 16 meeting, the Pocahontas County Commission called an emergency session, Friday, February 19, to discuss the fate of the Pocahontas County Day Report Center in light of Pocahontas County Sheriff David Jonese’s decision to terminate his department’s involvement.

“We’ve always been here for this county,” Jonese began. “I’ve always tried to do stuff for this department, and I’m going to put it right out there – for seven years, I have had nothing but push back from the commission. On every major issue we’ve tried to do, I would get some of those things, but I always had to come in here and fight for every detail.

“That aside, I will always do what I can to support the commission and this county. The county was left in a bad predicament with this thing, and it is my opinion that we probably should have gone with Greenbrier County for this year. If we wanted to do it separately next year, that would have given us time to plan for that.”

Following the resignation of the Day Report employees, the commission and commission attorney Bob Martin formulated a temporary fix – with the help of two of Jonese’s officers, Robin Robertson and Joshua Vaughan – until a decision could be reached about the Memorandum of Understanding at the Tuesday meeting.

In that period, it was discovered that the Day Report program – unbeknownst to the commission – had not been in compliance with its record-keeping for more than two years.

“We’re trying to get this program into place,” Jonese said, “and we’re working a lot of hours down there – myself included – and I’m glad to do so. However, when I’m asked to help and I get put into a situation where I need the Day Report vehicle for Day Report and I’m told no – if you’re wanting me to help you, you can’t sit around and tell me that you’ll help me when it’s convenient to you. Don’t ask me to help and then put roadblocks in front of me.”

Commission President Bill Beard responded by stating that his understanding of the situation was that, if any of Jonese’s employees had any issues about what was going on, Robertson and Vaughan would report to Martin and that he would take care of it or contact the commission if he needed its input.

“At the time I was notified about you wanting a vehicle, I thought Mr. Martin was supposed to take care of those issues and not us unless we had to be involved in it,” he added. “That’s the reason I said ‘no’ on the vehicle. I thought that was my chain of command from Mr. Martin.”

Realizing that there was a disconnect in communications between the departments, the commission voted to delegate administrative oversight of the operation of the Pocahontas County Day Report program to Martin.

Monday, February 22

The commission reconvened Monday, February 22, for a special session to discuss the creation of a Pocahontas County Local Community Criminal Justice Board and the appointment of its initial board members; an agreement between the commission and Inter-State Hardwoods; and the adoption of a resolution regarding background checks.

“Under the West Virginia Code 62, it states those that are qualified to be on the board,” Commissioner Jamie Walker began, “and I think we’ve got all the bases covered.”

According to the West Virginia Code Chapter 62-11C-6, community criminal justice boards must have a minimum of 11 members – with no more than 15 voting members – and be made up of: a sheriff or chief of police; a prosecutor; a public defender; a member of the local Board of Education; a member with a background in mental health care and services; two members to represent organizations and programs advocating the rights of victims of crimes; a member with a background in substance abuse care and service; three at-large members; and up to three ex officio, non-voting members.

A motion was passed to create a Pocahontas County Local Community Criminal Justice Board consisting of 13 voting members, with a minimum of 11 required members and two additional voting members.

A second motion was made to appoint an initial board of 13 voting members and two ex officio members, which shall include Sheriff David Jonese; Prosecutor Eugene Simmons; Public Defender Joshua Edwards; Board of Education member Joe Walker; Mental Health provider Wanda Wyatt; Crime Victims Rights organization/program representatives Laura Young and Kim Beverage; at-large members Steve Morton, Jaclyn Hollandsworth, Sam Felton, Janessa Henderson, Jamie Walker; Substance Abuse person Missy Keatley; and two ex officio members Cynthia Kelley and Roger Forman.

A tentative Local Community Criminal Justice Board meeting has been scheduled for Monday, February 29.

The next item on the special session agenda dealt with the agreement between the commission and Inter-State Hardwoods’ use of the East Fork Industrial Park property.

“Mr. President,” Martin began, “as you know, commissioner McLaughlin gave me that proposal at the last meeting. The issue that I’m trying to deal with – and the assessor and I spoke about this earlier today – the difficulty with this is to make sure that whatever agreement the commission enters into with Inter-State does not affect the tax-exempt status of the county’s land.”

To further ensure that the agreement is finalized and is in compliance with its tax-exempt status, the commission tabled the discussion until its next meeting.

The final item concerned the adoption of a resolution requiring background checks for all potential Pocahontas County Commission employees.

Six weeks ago, it was discovered that an employee, recently hired by the county, had an outstanding Domestic Violence Petition [DVP] in another county. At the time, the commission was unaware of the prior charge, but as a result, approached Martin about drafting a resolution which would address the issue.

The adopted resolution proposes that “prior to the employment of any potential employee of Pocahontas County, either as a direct employee of the Pocahontas County Commission or a co-employee of any other Pocahontas County office or entity, such person will be advised that, prior to their employment by Pocahontas County, an appropriate background check will be conducted of such potential employee by an appropriate law enforcement agency.”

The resolution was not written to keep any potential employee from employment, but rather, to provide the county with more information before an employment decision is made.

“It just gives us a little bit more information and knowledge,” Beard commented.

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