Sheriff named interim animal warden

July 30, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Breaking away from protocol, the Berkeley County Commissioners will reinterview everyone who applied to be the county's chief animal control officer, despite the fact a candidate had been recommended.

In the meantime, following Ray Strine's retirement as the head of animal control, Berkeley County Sheriff Randy Smith will oversee the department.

Twelve people were interviewed for the job, including several who currently work for animal control, County Commission President Howard Strauss said Tuesday.


Theo Chambers, a current bailiff who Strauss said has prior animal control and managerial experience, was recommended to fill the post. County Administrator Deborah Hammond and Strauss conducted the interviews and made the recommendation.

However, Commissioner Steve Teufel said he received a disturbing letter at his home that described possible inequities during the interview process. Several people signed the letter, but Teufel would not say who signed it nor would he go into detail about the letter's contents.

Commissioner John Wright made a motion at last week's commission meeting that everyone interested in the position be reinterviewed. Teufel agreed and the motion passed 2-1. Strauss voted against it.

"I'm not going to stand around and afford that situation to occur," Teufel said. During the new interviews, Teufel said Wright, Hammond and one or two "independent people" will sit on the panel to ensure there are "no signs of any type of misdoing."

Strauss said the letter in question was written by disgruntled animal control employees who were upset that someone from within the department was not recommended to fill the vacancy.

"His (Chambers') credentials are impeccable," Strauss said. "However, the inmates prefer to run their own asylum."

Typically, Hammond and one commissioner conduct interviews, Strauss said. Once a recommendation is made, the final decision on whether to hire that person rests with all three commissioners.

Although Chambers was deemed to be the most qualified candidate, he was not officially offered the job, Strauss said.

Neither Wright nor Chambers could be reached for comment Tuesday.

The chief animal warden makes $24,000 a year, Strauss said.

Similar to the tax department, by state code the sheriff also is the official overseer of animal control.

Smith said he has met with animal control employees and will continue to do so until the situation is resolved. He was named the interim director for a period of up to 90 days.

The Herald-Mail Articles