Commission Remains Undecided on Drug Testing

During its meeting last Tuesday evening, the Pocahontas County Commission remained largely undecided on how or whether to resume random drug testing of county employees. The practice has not taken place in more than two years.

A policy approved by the commission in 2010 mandates drug testing of “safety sensitive” employees, including any employee who drives a county vehicle.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the government may conduct suspicionless drug tests only of employees in safety-sensitive jobs, such as air traffic controllers or nuclear power plant operators, whose job functions, if done improperly, would cause specific and potentially catastrophic threats to the public safety.

In Kanawha County, the school board attempted to expand the definition of “safety-sensitive” to include teachers and nearly all public school employees. The U.S. District Court for Southern West Virginia struck down the proposed suspicion-less drug testing of teachers as unconstitutional.

In his order, Chief Judge Joseph R. Goodwin wrote that “A train, nuclear reactor, or firearm in the hands of someone on drugs presents an actual concrete risk to numerous people – the same cannot be said for a teacher wielding a history textbook.”

Last month, Commissioner David Fleming said he wanted drug testing to resume and asked Prosecuting Attorney Eugene Simmons to draft a policy for selecting names.

The commission reviewed Simmons’ proposed selection policy Tuesday evening. Under that policy, employees would be assigned numbers and numbers would be drawn from a box by a commissioner and the commission clerk. But the discussion of drug testing ranged wider than the selection procedure.

Commissioners were uncertain if the Sheriff’s Department, or employees working for other elected officials, would be part of the program. If not, only employees working directly for the commission, primarily 911 Center employees, would be subject to the policy.

Last week, Sheriff David Jonese told The Pocahontas Times that his department would participate in the County Commission drug testing program, if it resumes.

Fleming recommended a memo to county elected officials, letting them know they are re-instituting the drug testing procedure and if elected officials want any safety-sensitive employees to participate in the drug testing, they should let the commission know.

A drug testing policy was first implemented in the county due to a large indication that the public wanted to see drug testing. However, it is not a state-level requirement.

Commissioner Jamie Walker said state law requires him to take drug tests because he is a school bus driver, but that he opposes a county program not mandated by the state.

Commissioner William Beard said the policy should remain in place because there could be a situation where it may be needed. He said it would be nice if there were something from the state that says we need to do a random test once a year or twice a year.

The commission approved a memorandum to other elected officials to gauge their desire to participate in the drug testing program.

In other business, the commission approved a $2,591 contribution to Pocahontas County High School Future Business Leaders of America.

They also approved a $2,000 contribution to the Northern Pocahontas County Food Pantry, pending proof of non-profit status, as well as a sheep kill claim of $1,050.

The commission heard a presentation from Jon Michael Bosley on his uncle Bruce Bosley’s accomplishments as a student, citizen and NFL football player. You can see a feature article on Bruce Bosley in next week’s edition of The Pocahontas Times.

Thanks to Geoff Hamill and The Pocahontas Times for the information in this story.

Story By

Megan Moriarty

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