Court rules in favor of sheriff, civil service commission

Staff Report

CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruled this week in favor of the Mason County Deputy Sheriff’s Civil Service Commission and Mason County Sheriff Greg Powers, after a former deputy petitioned to return to his position in the department.

The court heard the case brought forth by Sgt. Robert E. Fruth, II, who was employed by the Mason County Sheriff’s Department.

The court noted Fruth was discharged from employment with the Mason County Sheriff’s Department based on two separate incidents, including, allegedly engaging in a verbal altercation with his spouse in public while on duty and that he allegedly, intentionally wrecked his police cruiser.

The court’s opinion reflected, “On January 4, 2012, Sgt. Fruth was indicted for reckless driving and felony destruction of property based on the allegation that he had intentionally wrecked his police cruiser.” The court also noted: “On June 5, 2012, Sgt. Fruth’s plea of no contest to failure to maintain control of a vehicle (a misdemeanor) was accepted by the circuit court and the felony charges were dismissed.” Following dismissal of the charges, Fruth requested reinstatement with the department back in 2012.

The court also noted the sheriff’s department conducted its own internal investigation of Sgt. Fruth’s alleged on-duty conduct and termination was recommended based on that internal, investigative report.

On Tuesday, Justice Elizabeth D. Walker delivered the opinion of the court which in part, stated:

“He (Fruth) challenges the finding of just cause for the discharge made by the Mason County Civil Service Commission for Deputy Sheriffs (‘the Commission’) that was upheld by the Circuit Court of Mason County by order entered on July 29, 2016. Sgt. Fruth also claims he was denied procedural due process and that the Commission’s practices and procedures were flawed. We find no error and affirm the decision of the circuit court.”

In the analysis of the case, the court wrote:

“While Sgt. Fruth identifies eleven separate assignments of error, in essence they present the following bases for appeal: (1) he was denied procedural due process; (2) the Commission’s practices and procedures were flawed; and (3) the Commission’s finding of just cause was ‘clearly wrong, arbitrary and capricious, misapplied the law, and [was] contrary to the evidence.’”

The court’s opinion also addressed those individual bases for appeal.

Ultimately, the court’s conclusion stated:

“For the foregoing reasons, we find no reversible error and affirm the circuit court’s decision to uphold the Commission’s decision to discharge Sgt. Fruth from employment as a Mason County deputy sheriff.”

The court’s entire opinion appears on its website and was posted Tuesday.

Staff Report