Pocahontas prosecutor alleges budget shortfall
Marlinton, W.Va. –
Pocahontas County Prosecutor Eugene Simmons was on the county commission’s agenda Tuesday evening to discuss issues with the office he took over on January 1.
“I’m sure you all know what the law is,” he said. “When one prosecutor goes out at the end of a term and another one takes over, the budget has to be split. If you look at the budget, we’re about $15-20,000 short. In other words, the past prosecutor spent more money than she was supposed to. Now, we’re going to do an investigation on this, so you don’t have to make a decision on it tonight. But you can look at it and see that all of the items were over-spent. Some of them, she spent as much as 90 percent of the items, which she’s only supposed to spend 50 [percent].”
Jeff Price, the husband of former prosecutor Donna Price, says his wife invited Simmons to meet to examine and turn over all county property, but Simmons did not respond.
“I’ll pass out letters, from the end of November, when she opened her office up for you to come over and look through everything and you did not take advantage of that. My concern is that, this is no way to do business. We have people representing the public here. You’re a elected official – a constitutional officer – and you don’t have the common courtesy to notify Donna – actually come in and go over issues.”
Simmons said he notified the former prosecutor of issues.
“I asked Donna – I wrote Donna a letter,” he said. “I told her I was going to be here tonight. I said we have a lot of items that are missing. There were over 69 reams of paper purchased. Now wait – you’re talking when you should keep your mouth shut. When are you going to let me talk?”
“I believe I have deserved the right to speak,” Price responded. “Six months ago, I was defending this nation.”
“A lot of us have been in the Army and we didn’t play anywhere else,” said Simmons. “We were in the Army. I put my two years in.”
The public elected you to prosecute, not to count reams of paper and office supplies,” Price said.
Price says his wife is prepared to discuss the alleged budget issue.
“She’s more than willing to meet with one of the commissioners and you to go over the budget,” he said. “From my understanding, he did not realize that the fiscal years runs from July 1 to June 30 until she told him.”
The commission voted 2-1, with Commissioner Jamie Walker in opposition, to conduct an executive session to discuss Simmons’ allegations. AMR News challenged the closed-door session on the basis that an elected official’s disposition of public property is public information.
Following a 10-minute executive session, Green Bank resident Cheryl McCullough challenged Simmons’ request to hire Robert P. Martin as Assistant Prosecutor because of recent misdemeanor charges and Simmons responds.
“I would just like to ask that the Assistant Prosecuting Attorney has pending charges against him and I would suggest that those charges be taken care of before he takes office, where they be looked at and determined,” said McCullough.
“She might tell us what they are – I don”t know,” said Simmons.
“They are Public Intoxication and Obstruction of an Officer, in Morgantown,” said McCullough.
“I’ll check it out,” said Simmons.
“I’ve got a copy if you’d like it,” said McCullough. “His trial is set for February.”
The commission took no action Martin’s hiring, but hired Andrea O’Brien and Courtney Gainer as secretaries in the Prosecutor’s Office.
In other business, the commission:
— approved a one-year, $12,000 contract with Geoweb, LLC for maintenance work on the county’s 911 mapping and addressing system;
— hired Richard Miller as deputy Assessor;
— appointed Paul Marganian to the Free Libraries Board;
— approved a letter of support for the NRAO;
— approved renovation of the Judge’s Chamber and Law Library with Circuit Clerk funds;
— approved an expenditure of $18,000 for courthouse air conditioning;
— approved a letter to DishTV requesting local news channels.