PARKERSBURG – The Wood County Commission has received a number of complaints regarding Wood County Sheriff Steve Stephens, according to a press release on Tuesday.
The commission’s press release, signed by Commission Chairman Blair Couch, says they have received a number of complaints from sheriff employees.
“The Wood County Commission cannot detail these complaints or disclose the action it has taken as these are personnel matters,” the press release said. “The commission is very limited in what it can do because the West Virginia Code does not give it any authority over the elected officials or the employees of those elected officials in matters of personnel.
“We expect all elected officials to obey the law and treat all their employees with dignity and respect.”
Couch later said he spoke with Commissioners Robert Tebay and Jimmy Colombo about the wording of the press release and they approved it. Neither Tebay nor Colombo could be reached for comment on Tuesday.
The complaints about the sheriff were about lawsuits and potential lawsuits, Couch said.
At a meeting last week, Stephens appeared before the commission to respond to a recent vote of no confidence by the Wood County Deputy Sheriff’s Association. Couch subsequently said he had not received any complaints about the sheriff.
Couch said Monday that none of the MPs were on the agenda to discuss the issue that day. All the commission received was an unsigned letter from the association without anyone being able to specifically respond to the allegations.
“There are demands that we have as elected representatives and people think that we have more authority than we have”, said sofa. “We have been made aware of the complaints and we must follow state code.”
A complaint was filed last week by Della Matheny, a former deputy in the sheriff’s department.
The lawsuit alleges that Stephens violated the West Virginia Human Rights Act, West Virginia Whistleblower Law. The lawsuit alleges that Stephens made inappropriate comments to Matheny and was inappropriately interested in other aspects of her life. The lawsuit also mentions the attention Stephens allegedly paid to another deputy, Tasha Hewitt.
Stephens was unable to appear at Monday’s commission meeting to address the retrial due to illness. Officials said they would put it on Thursday’s agenda. At 9:30 a.m. Thursday, the commission is scheduled to “Discuss the staff issue in the Wood County Sheriff’s Department,” according to the agenda.
A letter to the Charleston law firm Bailey & Wyant PLLC commission dated March 30, 2020, spoke of Stephens’ alleged actions against Hewitt, including putting his hand on his leg, making comments inappropriate on his appearance; threatened and / or attempted to fire her because of her relationship with another Member of Parliament and referred to her using a vulgar term; and interfered in Hewett’s divorce proceedings. The full letter was published by another local outlet and Parkersburg News and Sentinel filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the county for a copy of this letter, but had not yet received a response to the request on time.
The letter from the law firm stated that the investigation was not a legal proceeding and that the statements taken were not made under oath. The letter said Stephens “Categorically denies the allegations. “ He also said that some employees interviewed, while critical of his conduct, said Stephens had done positive things that helped the office.
County officials confirmed that Bailey & Wyant had been hired by their insurance company to investigate the case.
Information released from another Freedom of Information Act request with the county includes a notarized document stating that $ 20,000 was paid to Hewitt and his attorney Scott Kaminski as part of an agreement reached by way of negotiation and negotiation. “And represents a mutually acceptable final compromise.” “
Stephens could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.