Update: Police chief says holiday program aimed at drivers with minor offenses
ST. MARYS, W.Va. (WTAP) - The police chief of St. Marys says a holiday charity drive now under investigation was intended only for drivers committing minor traffic offenses.
The “Slow Down for the Holidays” program had been in existence since the late 2000′s, according to Police Chief Bill Stull.
St. Marys police officers and Pleasants County Sheriff’s deputies collected money for the program, in place of fines for various driving offenses.
Chief Stull says the offenses involved were usually speeding violations, and that participation was voluntary.
”Every year, we would set a limit as to what that number would be,” Stull recalled Thursday. “For a simple speeding ticket, one violation would be, in the last couple of years, a $50 donation would be made.”
What is being investigated has not been disclosed, although there are reports money was collected for offenses other than speeding or other minor violations.
Chief Stull says the program took place during the Christmas holidays up to 2020.
Last week, we reported two Pleasants County magistrates resigned earlier this month.
We’re now learning there’s an investigation over the county’s participation in a program aimed at forgiving fines to motorists during the holidays.
The investigation, we have been told by several sources, all of whom ask not to be identified, involves the “Slow Down For The Holidays” program.
It has taken place in Pleasants County for several years during the Christmas holiday season, where motorists pulled over for traffic violatoins are given the option of having traffic fines waived in exchange for a donation to gift collection drives.
County Prosecutor Brian Carr sent us a statement, saying the program has been in existence for several years, and has been utilized “on a limited number of occasions”.
“(The program) was understood by law enforcement as an alternative legal mechanism to address only a narrow scope of criminal traffic offenses without any impediment to other government sanctions imposed by the Department of Motor Vehicles,” Carr’s statement reads. “To the best of our knowledge no one personally benefited in any way, other than the individual motor vehicle operator and members of the community who were identified as, or known to have, a family need or in need of assistance.”
The statement said an investigation was taking place, but did not say who was being investigated.
The two magistrates resigned August 13. WTAP received calls and e-mails saying several officials at the Pleasants County Courthouse had been arrested by federal marshals. But calls to federal agencies and the courthouse itself indicated that was not the case, and some county officeholders told us that was “gossip”.
Carr says the program has been halted until the investigation is completed.
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