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Commission holds preliminary discussion on sheriff “no confidence” vote

Published: Oct. 14, 2021 at 5:34 PM EDT
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PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - The Wood County Commission plans a formal discussion Monday of the complaints leveled against Sheriff Steve Stephens by the Wood County Deputy Sheriff’s Association.

The association earlier this week took a vote of “no confidence”, describing the sheriff as a “tyrant” and claiming he promotes a “hostile and negative” work environment. (The complete letter sent to the sheriff and the county commission can be found on our original story.)

The commission plans to invite Sheriff Stephens to attend the meeting at its Monday session. The meeting agenda was released Thursday afternoon, and the discussion is the only item listed.

The commissioners were told by Prosecutor Pat Lefebure they don’t have broad powers over the matter.

”The commission is limited, to a degree, as to their oversight in this regard,” Lefebure said. “The first step, I think, would be to set it on the agenda for Monday and have the sheriff come in...if he will. I don’t think we can force him.”

The matter could eventually be referred to a three-judge panel if there is a request, by petition or otherwise, to remove Stephens from office.

In 2011, a three-judge panel heard two days of arguments on a petition by a Wood County sheriff’s deputy to remove then-sheriff Jeff Sandy from office. The panel issued a ruling several months after the hearing that Sandy should remain sheriff.

Commission President Blair Couch indicated at least part of Monday’s meeting could take place in executive session, meaning behind closed doors.

Commissioner Jimmy Colombo said, however, that Stephens shouldn’t be prosecuted unless there’s proof a crime has been committed.

“I can see them selecting a person to talk to their boss, and, if that didn’t work, I can see other avenues being taken,” Colombo said.

Couch added there’s a “high bar” to remove an official from office.

You can read more about the “no confidence” vote here.

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