Pocahontas Commission files ethics inquiry for Sheriff’s Department video
Marlinton, W.Va. – The Pocahontas County Commission meeting on Thursday turned into a shouting match when Commissioner Martin Saffer demanded information from Sheriff David Jonese about how courthouse security camera video turned up on Facebook.
“The question I have is – and I was told by two people – that data collected by these cameras showed up on Facebook,” Saffer said. “Now, I want to know how that happened.”
“How did it happen?” asked Jonese.
“Yes, sir,” said Saffer. “Did you do that?”
“It was posted on there.” said Jonese.
“Did you post it?”
“I didn’t personally, no.”
“Who posted it?”
“That’s not for me to tell you.”
“Yes, sir, it is for you to tell me.”
“No, it’s not.”
“I’m telling you it is.”
“I’m telling you that that is my department.”
“I’m sorry, sir, I’m sorry.”
“You can be sorry all you want.”
“You cannot take information, which is used for security purposes, which was paid for by tax dollars, and put it on Facebook.”
Sheriff Jonese maintains there is no privacy issue and Saffer responds.
“Everyone knows there’s cameras in there,” said Jonese.
“That doesn’t mean that that is supposed to be posted on Facebook,” Saffer replied. “They are there for security reasons. That’s why we got the grant – to protect people – not to invade their privacy. I want to know – did you authorize that?”
“Did I authorize it?”
“You know what?” replied Jonese. “Those are my cameras, in my office.”
“I’m sorry,” said Saffer. “They are not your cameras. They were paid for by public funds.”
“They’re not yours.”
“For my office and my responsibility to take care of them.”
The commissioner and sheriff disagree on the purpose of the security cameras.
“Well, I think it’s a shame that the people of Pocahontas County, who walk into this courthouse are going to wind up on Facebook and have their privacy invaded by public funds, which were purchased to protect them, not invade their property,” said Saffer.
“They’re not there to protect them,” replied Jonese.”
“It was to protect them.”
“No it’s not. It’s there to protect my department and this courthouse.”
“No, it was to protect people in the public. It’s security, not for any other use. I think it was way out of line.”
“Well, I don’t care,” said Jonese.
“I know you don’t care and I’m sorry you don’t care and I think that’s wrong.”
“Well, that’s too bad, isn’t it?”
Commissioner David Fleming asks about the content of the video and Saffer responds.
“I share a concern of access to security camera footage, outside of authorized people and Facebook does raise a question,” said Fleming. “I guess my question is really – what was the nature of the footage?”
“The nature of the footage, I was told, had to do with the election of Donna Price and it was put on there, somehow, to demean her.”
Following the Sheriff’s departure, a member of the press was able to access the video on Facebook. The video appeared to be taken from a camera in the upper corner of the Sheriff’s Department office in the former jailhouse. The video appeared to show Pocahontas County Prosecutor Donna Meadows Price making a rude gesture with her hand after the Sheriff left the room.
Jonese says the video might have been taken with a cell phone and Saffer responds.
“You know what – maybe it was done from a phone or something,” said Jonese. “Could that have been the case? Maybe somebody recorded it.”
“It wasn’t,” said Saffer.
“How do you know?”
“Okay, are you going to tell me that’s true?”
“I’m just saying.”
“Are you going to tell me that’s true?”
“I’m not going to tell you anything.”
“Why not? You’re a public official.”
“Well, don’t you answer to the public?”
“I answer to the public, not to Marty Saffer.”
“I’m part of the county commission, sir.”
Saffer accuses the sheriff of using the video for political purposes.
“Was it a picture of Donna Price?” Saffer asked.
“Yeah, it’s a picture of Donna Price,” said Jonese.
“Okay, so it had to do with the election, didn’t it?”
“No, it had to do with nothing.”
“Oh, of course it did and that is another misuse of public funds. It’s a misuse of public funds to use your office in a way to aggrandize and put forward your campaign. It was wrong.”
“There was nothing to do with my campaign.”
Commissioner Jamie Walker gives his opinion.
“I don’t know nothing about it,” he said. “This is the first I’ve heard about it. But I’m not a Facebook fan and I think it would be appropriate, as a county, and as elected officials, that you should recommend that stuff should not be posted – period – regardless of what it is.”
The commission filed an inquiry with the West Virginia Ethics Commission regarding the posting of the video.