Second lawsuit filed against Wood County Sheriff, Commission

WTAP News @ Noon
Published: Nov. 15, 2021 at 10:33 AM EST
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PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - A second lawsuit has been filed against the Wood County Commission, Wood County Sheriff’s Department, and Sheriff Steve Stephens.

This one was filed by Mark Harris, a court officer employed by the Sheriff’s Department, who claims Sheriff Stephens intentionally caused him emotional distress.

The lawsuit says Harris was unfairly pressured to be at work while trying to care for his terminally ill wife between 2016 and 2020.

Harris says he used up a lot of his own vacation and sick leave to tend to her, and was even allowed to accept donated time from other employees for a while.

However, the lawsuit says he was eventually scolded by Stephens for taking so much time. It also says the sheriff changed policy so Harris could no longer get time donated to him by other employees.

Stephens also allegedly threatened to fire Harris over the amount of time he was taking.

At one point, Harris transferred as a court officer to Wood County Circuit Court, but says when he did so he was stripped of his rank of Captain. He says this was an act of retaliation by Sheriff Stephens.

In September of 2020, the lawsuit says Harris asked for more time off to be with his wife who was in hospice care. Her care takers apparently told Harris she “did not have much time left.”

In response, the lawsuit claims Stephens said “Well, you told me she was going to die before, and she didn’t.”

The lawsuit says Harris’s wife passed away on September 21, 2020.

Harris says it had been common practice for deputies take up donations for fellow employees when they suffered a loss like his, but Stephens would not allow them.

The complaint says Stephens was trying to emotionally hurt Harris and succeeded.

Wood County Commission is named in the suit as Harris’s joint employer with Stephens.

This is the second lawsuit in less than a month to name Stephens and Wood County Commission, and both followed a vote of no confidence in Stephens by the Wood County Deputy Sheriff’s Association.

You can read the full second lawsuit here.

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