Attorney speaks out on sheriff term limits


October 4, 2012

MASON COUNTY — Voters in West Virginia will not only be deciding which candidates to elect on Nov. 6 but whether or not to remove the current two-term limit on county sheriffs.

Currently, sheriffs and the governor are the only two elected offices in West Virginia who have a consecutive two-term limit — there are no term limits on other county or state offices.

This week, Thornton Cooper, an attorney from South Charleston who is well-known for recently battling the state legislature’s redistricting plans, spoke at a Mason County T.E.A. Party meeting about the ballot amendment which would amend the state constitution.

Cooper said he was in favor of term limits for office holders. He then told those gathered at the meeting he felt the ballot language doesn’t reflect what the amendment will do, adding the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office failed to publish the proposed amendment in newspapers across West Virginia 90 days prior to the election, and then further failed to publish the full text of the amendment in legals ads.

Cooper then read the ballot language to those at the meeting who expressed confusion as to what it meant. Cooper pointed out there was no punctuation in the ballot language and an indirect quote was made in it which left, what he felt, a poorly drafted piece. After reading the ballot language, Cooper said voters may even be confused as to how to vote either “for” or “against” the amendment. He said if voters check they are for the amendment, this means they are in favor of removing term limits for sheriffs, and if they check they are against the amendment, this means a voter is in favor of keeping term limits.

“This would completely change the balance of power in county government if it passes,” Cooper said, adding the legislature tried to pass removal of term limits for sheriffs in both 1973 and 1994 both these efforts were defeated.

Cooper said those who support the removal of term limits argue if a qualified person is running a sheriff’s office, then they should have the right, just as any other qualified county official running other county offices, to campaign to run for as many terms as they desire. At any rate, the voter would always decide who stays and who goes.

Still, many at the meeting, as well as Cooper, were of the sentiment that there needed to be more “checks and balances” in government. Currently, sheriffs can serve two terms, sit out a term, and then run again.

Also speaking at this week’s Mason County T.E.A. Party meeting, Steve Presely of the Rural Appalachian Sobriety Project (RASP) which is a local organization for those battling substance or alcohol abuse issues. RASP holds NA meetings beginning at 7 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, located at 301 Holloway Street, the old church building located at the corner of Holloway and Chestnut Streets, in Henderson.

Presely, who works at Mason County Day Report, said the group was started when he and others saw an immediate, local need for a place for those who are serious about their sobriety. Presely said RASP receives no grant funding or agency funding and runs strictly on donations as well as community support. He said he felt people depend too much on government to take of them and “good luck” if waiting on grant funding to get sober. Currently there is a need to put a restroom in the church where the group meets and to build a wheelchair ramp if possible. Anyone wishing to donate money or time to the organization can do so by calling 740-645-6234 or mail donations made out to RASP to 221 1/2 Main St., Point Pleasant, WV, 25550. The group began in April.

Closing out the meeting were candidates who addressed those attending, including Gordon Clark, candidate for sheriff, Scott Cadle, candidate for house of delegates 13th district and Jim Butler, candidate for house of delegates 14th district. The meeting was ongoing at press time and it was not known if additional candidates addressed those in attendance.