Pocahontas County Prosecuting Attorney Questions Legality of Sheriffs Dept Consultant

Marlinton, WV – Pocahontas County Prosecuting Attorney Donna M. Price has some ethical concerns about the use of an outside attorney to review drug evidence for the county Sheriffs’ department. She brought the discussion to the Pocahontas County Commission meeting on May 17th. Price says she just wants to find out how this came about.

“The employment of outside counsel, when I got on the [meeting] agenda, had no idea how or why Mr. Martin was brought into this” says Price. “After speaking with the Sheriff this week, the best I can classify it at this point [was] in the role of a consultant. When I got on the agenda, it was A-to find out whether you all employed him in that capacity without consult or knowledge to me and my office, and B-if you did so, what was the rational or reasoning behind it.”

Price is referring to Charleston Attorney Robert Martin, asked by Pocahontas County Sheriff David Jonese to review evidence prior to a large drug raid conducted by the Sheriffs dept and US Forest Service officers on May 10th. She’s concerned that Martin, while here concerning other county legal matters, may have taken advantage of an opportunity he saw in the Sheriffs dept.

“The Sheriff utilized him as a consultant, at this point I don’t believe he’s asked to be compensated; I don’t know, I obviously wasn’t part of that, wasn’t brought into that decision, but I am left with the aftermath of it” she says. “And there were comments made that the Sheriff was unaware of at the time, about the length of time; a little bit of boasting on Mr. Martins part, which, therein lies the reason for my getting on the agenda. Bob can float in here today and float out tomorrow and whatever he does I’m left cleaning up.”

Price says she’s waiting on an advisory opinion about Martin’s actions from the West Virginia Bar Association. She says because he acted as a consultant, he may not be protected by attorney-client privilage, which could possibly affect the prosecution of the drug charges. She says she will advise the Commission as soon as she gets an answer from the Bar Association.

In other business, JL Clifton presented a proposal from the Pocahontas County Humane Society for the 2011-2012 animal welfare contract. The HS entered into a contract agreement with the Commission following the resignation of Animal Control Officer Sandy Mallow in December 2009. However their working relationship with the owners of ARC building in Marlinton, which houses the county animal shelter, broke down. ARC subsequently contracted with the county SPCA to run the shelter. Now the HS wants to resume the contract but with a twist.

Their proposal asks for $85,000.00 for the animal welfare contract. This would pay for a shelter manager, and the supplies necessary to take care of up to 30 dogs and 25 cats. They are also asking the Commission to spend $60,000.00 to purchase the Humane Society’s mobile home on 2nd Avenue in Marlinton, currently in use as office and shelter space. They would use the proceeds of that sale to build a county animal shelter on 4 acres of land the HS owns in Huntersville.

Commissioner Martin Saffer notes that amount is almost three times the amount the Commission is considering for the animal welfare contract. When asked by Commission President David Fleming what the county could use that building for, Clifton offered a couple of ideas.

“First and foremost with the annex project for the courthouse getting dwindled down to an elevator as I understand it, you can always use the space” says Clifton. “You’re currently paying rent for the Day Report Community Corrections program, $550.00 [per month] I believe. Over a period of 10 years depending on how you break that down, the building would pay for itself, even if it’s used for nothing but Community Corrections.”

The Commission also discussed a draft of an advertisement for bids for the animal welfare contract for the next fiscal year. The decision to place the ad was tabled until the first Commission meeting in June to give the Commissioners more time to review it. The contract will be awarded later in June.

The Commission also agreed to write a letter of support for Grandpa’s Pantry owner Lois Mamek to allow her to put signs for her business on Route 219. Mamek has been ordered by the West Virginia Division of Highways to remove her signs from the road.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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