Sheriff Steve Stephens to retire December 1
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - Wood County Sheriff Steve Stephens will retire on December 1, 2021.
Wood County Commission was handed his letter of resignation Monday morning.
The announcement comes as a second lawsuit accusing him of mistreating employees was filed in Wood County Circuit Court.
Commissioners say they will begin the process of naming an interim sheriff on Thursday.
A special election will be held next year to find someone who will formally fill out the remainder of the sheriff’s 2020-2024 term.
The news came while Charles Roberts, a member of the Mid-Ohio Valley Citizen Coalition, was addressing the commission.
“I think we need to end this discussion, Charles, and I’ll tell you why, Commission President Blair Couch told Roberts, before reading Stephens’ retirement letter.
But the discussion did not end there. Another coalition member, Marie Krinock, accused the commission of knowing about a settlement months ago between the county and a sheriff’s deputy, arguing more lawsuits are pending.
“How much more money are Wood County taxpayers going to have to pay out for these frivolous lawsuits, that you guys already knew about, and the Wood County Commission is paying out our tax money for his bad behavior that you guys were well aware of?,” Krinock asked of Commissioner Jimmy Colombo.
“You personally are knowledgable of all the lawsuits?” Colombo responded.
“I’m personally aware of one at 9:30 this morning,” said Krinock.
Colombo then asked: “Then why don’t you get lawyered up and get your lawyer to represent you?”
“I don’t need to. You’re my taxpayer and you’re handing out my taxpayer money for lawsuits (when) you’re aware of the bad behavior,” Krinock answered.
Krinock and Colombo also got into a heated discussion about a reference in former deputy Della Matheny’s suit, filed late last month, about comments the sheriff allegedly made about Deputy Tasha Hewitt at Colombo’s restaurant.
It will be up to the county commission to appoint Sheriff Stephens’ immediate successor, before voters get a say in 2022 in choosing his more permanent replacement.
“In those two weeks, we have to develop...it’s you guys who have to decide who will be the interim sheriff,” Pat Lefebure, Wood County Prosecutor, told the commission.
“We expect to hear from interested parties to be appointed sheriff,” Couch said, “and we’ll have to set up how we want to handle it.”
Stephens was named alongside his department and Wood County Commission in a separate lawsuit filed in October by former deputy sheriff Della Matheny, who claimed Stephens created a hostile work environment.
The attorneys representing Matheny are also representing Harris. Monday afternoon, Attorney Todd Bailess sent WTAP a statement by Della Matheny on the sheriff’s retirement.
“This is a positive step for current and former members of the Wood County Sheriff’s Department, like me, who worked hard and really cared about this community. The Wood County Commission turned a blind eye to Sheriff Stephens for too long. They allowed him to create a hostile work environment that negatively impacted dedicated officers like myself.”
-Della Matheny, Former Sergeant at the Wood County Sheriff’s Department
The commission reiterated Monday that its authority over the sheriff is limited to financial issues, such as approving the department’s budget. Nonetheless, the commission has been named in the lawsuits.
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