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Fired deputy's hearing set for Tuesday

April 07, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A former sheriff's deputy protesting his firing will have a Civil Service hearing on Tuesday.

Sheriff Ronald Jones on March 29 fired Richard Burrell, who had been a Berkeley County Sheriff's Department deputy for almost five years.

Jones said a 180-day family violence final protective order against Burrell prevented him from using or possessing a firearm, which was needed to do his job.

Burrell's attorney, David Joel, disagreed, saying Jones misunderstood the terms of the order. Since Berkeley County Magistrate Ruth Donaldson did not impose a provision prohibiting the use and possession of a firearm, that provision does not apply, Joel contends.

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The Berkeley County Deputy Sheriff's Civil Service Commission will meet Tuesday afternoon at the county courthouse to hear both sides' arguments.

Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely said the questions surrounding Donaldson's initials on the protective order are moot. Federal law says that the object of a protective order is not permitted to use or possess firearms, regardless of which provisions are initialed on the order, Games-Neely said.

There also are precedents showing that state law also automatically forbids the person from using or having a weapon for the duration of the protective order, she said.

Burrell has been charged with domestic battery. His girlfriend, Jeanette Renee Holben, accused Burrell of knocking her head against the wall, throwing her to the ground twice and pounding her head on the floor during a Feb. 27 altercation.

Holben also was charged with domestic battery. Burrell alleged that she struck him first, with a curling iron, and slapped him across the face. He said in a complaint that he pushed Holben to the ground to defend himself.

Burrell and Holben received final protective orders against each other on March 7.

On March 29, the day Burrell was fired, they returned to Donaldson to have the orders withdrawn, which the magistrate did.

No date has been set for them to appear on the battery charges. Both are free on $587 bond.

Games-Neely said a final protective order cannot be withdrawn by a magistrate since the court loses jurisdiction once it is issued. "A final order is a final order," she said.

Donaldson declined to comment on the case because the criminal charges are pending.

Greg R. Ahalt, one of the county Civil Service Commission's three members, said the commission has had only two other hearings in the last six years. Both involved deputies' protests of disciplinary measures, he said.

According to West Virginia state law, a deputy sheriff has the right to a Civil Service hearing if he or she is fired, suspended or demoted. The sheriff must justify the action for it to stand.

Either party may appeal the Civil Service Commission's decision to the county's Circuit Court and may then petition the Supreme Court of Appeals to review the Circuit Court's decision.

Berkeley County Clerk John Small said that deputy sheriff is the only Civil Service position in the county.

Joel will represent Burrell at the hearing.

Jones will also be represented by an attorney, although who that will be was uncertain Thursday.

Small said the prosecuting attorney's office will represent the sheriff. However, Games-Neely said Thursday afternoon that the County Commission hadn't asked her office to get involved.

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