Pocahontas Commission refuses to pay medical, legal bills
Marlinton, W.Va. – During Tuesday’s Pocahontas County Commission meeting, Norman Alderman asked the commission to pay his medical bills, which he incurred as a result of his September 6 arrest for speeding.
“Instead of the Sheriff sending his man to send a summons, for 45 cents, he decided to arrest me for a speeding ticket, right in front of The Pocahontas Times, and I was injured in the process,” he said.
“You can choose to pay the bill now, to your hospital, or you can choose to let me sue you. And I assure you I have already checked a lawyer and we are ready to go.”
County commissioner Martin Saffer tells Alderman a judge must make the decision who pays.
“I’m telling you – we can’t pay the bill until liability has been assessed in a court of law,” he said.
The commission took no action on Alderman’s request.
The commission discussed payment of a $19,000 legal bill for Prosecuting Attorney Donna Price, who is defending herself from charges leveled by the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
Commissioner David Fleming reads part of a letter from the county’s insurance provider.
“We have reviewed this matter and we are of the opinion that the above-referenced policy will not provide coverage for this matter,” Fleming read. “This claim arises from a complaint filed with an administrative body.”
Commissioner Jamie Walker said the commission should consider paying the bill if Price is found not guilty of the charges.
“At this stage right here, the way I feel about it is – I feel that the charges that’s been made against Ms. Price is supposedly a deliberate reaction with the Sheriff of her refusing to do her job as an elected prosecuting attorney,” he said. “If she intentionally did do that and is found guilty, I feel that it’s her responsibility to pay out of it – it’s not our fault that she done it. But if she’s found innocent, then I feel like she was doing her job.”
Assistant Prosecutor Ted White says the commission’s refusal to pay is unfair to Price.
“You’ll pay if she wins her case,” he said. “The reason you hire a lawyer is to affect the outcome. If she’s walking in there with no lawyer and no money and the other side’s just loaded to the gills, what it is – by doing nothing, you’re doing something – you’re back-stabbing your own prosecutor.”
The commission voted unanimously to inform the Ranson law office that the commission is not responsible for the bill.
The commission reconsidered a resolution to support all-terrain vehicle use on National Forest roads. Doug Cooper with the West Virginia Open Trails Association presented a resolution to the commission on November 8, on which the commission took no action.
Fleming re-drafted the resolution for the interest group and read it to the commission and public. Saffer gives his opinion on Fleming’s resolution.
“You’re trying to make this a document, in which you’re saying – which, quite appropriately – that all these different points of view should work together to find a solution,” he said. Yet, you’re concluding that the commission already supports this and I think that’s premature.”
The commission approved the resolution to support ATV use on National Forest roads by a 2-1 vote, with Saffer in opposition.
Randy Sharp asked the commission to rescind its resolution in support of national monument designation for the Cranberry Wilderness and surrounding areas. Sharp said he was concerned that access to and activity in the area would be limited if the designation was approved. Mike Costello, with the West Virginia Wilderness Coalition, says all national monuments are managed differently.
“There’s no gold standard,” he said. “I mean, for wilderness areas, you have a Wilderness Act that determines how every single wilderness area in the entire country is managed. But we do not have such a standard for national monuments.”
Walker moved to rescind the commission’s June 5 resolution, but the motion was not seconded.
In other business, the commission certified the November 6 election results and approved getting an estimate for shutters in the circuit courtroom.