Pocahontas Commission files ethics complaint against Sheriff
Marlinton, W.Va. – During the November 20 Pocahontas County Commission meeting, the commission voted to file an ethics complaint against Sheriff David Jonese for a campaign video that appears to include security camera footage from inside the Sheriff’s Department office in the former jailhouse.
Following the November 20 meeting, Commissioner David Fleming noticed something about the video that concerned him and delayed filing the complaint. During Tuesday’s commission meeting, Fleming played the video and explains his concern.
“When the video begins to play, what I noticed was that the frame is moving, which contradicts the idea that it is a stationary camera,” he said. “If you’ll notice, you’ll see, basically – as if the camera is being held by a hand. From that information, I became very concerned that we are not talking about a stationary camera, but that it would have been a hand-held camera.
“So, I called and spoke with the Sheriff on the matter and I asked him if he wished to explain, in more detail, what had happened. He consulted with his attorney and got back with me and informed me that their official position is that the footage was shot with a cell phone.”
The commission visited the former jailhouse on Tuesday to inspect the video recording system. Commissioner Martin Saffer describes what happened.
“We went to the office, in which that video was shot,” he said. “We examined the office and the location of the fixed camera. We compared the view on the monitor with the view shown on the video which appeared on Facebook. And it was my opinion that the two are identical – that the picture on Facebook was indeed taken by the fixed camera belonging to the county, paid for by county funds. And that’s why I voted to go ahead with the matter of the ethics complaint.”
Following the inspection, Fleming gives his appraisal.
“It’s my opinion that someone with a cell phone recorded the security camera monitor, showing the image from that security camera,” he said.
“Certainly, there is a security camera in that perspective and it seems to me that it was shot from that security camera. So, based on that information, I feel that we still have the issue at hand of whether security camera footage, whether directly from hard drive, or through the means of filming the film was made available to the public and there may be an ethics violation. So, that’s why I feel we should proceed with the ethics complaint.”
Saffer says ownership of the cell phone must be determined.
“I would ask also to determine whether or not the cell phone which was used to shoot the footage from the security camera, which belonged to the public, was a publicly-purchased cell phone. An so, that is an overlay of a second additional question about whether or not there was a further misuse of publicly-purchased, public equipment.”
Commissioner Jamie Walker agrees on the origin of the video.
“There’s no doubt – I feel that the footage was shot off of the security camera,” he said.
The commission conducted the inspection and discussion of the video equipment in a closed executive session. Following a challenge by AMR News, the commission discussed the legality of the executive session.
Walker gives his opinion.
“To me, if you’re an elected official, your actions and your duties is public,” he said. “The public’s who put you in there. So, I felt it should have been discussed in public, myself, to begin with.”
The commission voted 3-0 to rescind the executive session, revealed the details of the inspection, and voted 3-0 to file the ethics complaint against Sheriff Jonese.