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Camera 'swivel' in new center provokes countywide memo

December 15, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Berkeley County Commission voted Thursday to send a "do not touch" letter to all county offices and departments after learning that a surveillance camera was "swiveled" or aimed in another direction by an employee in the county's new judicial center.

"Those cameras are put there to make your department safer," Commissioner Steven C. Teufel told Circuit Clerk Virginia Sine, who said she was not aware of the concern.

"I'm not out front all the time," Sine said of the camera's location and the alleged involvement of a member of her staff.

Commission President Howard L. Strauss said he was made aware of the situation just before the close of business at end of last week.

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"I'm aghast that anyone would alter or tamper with the camera system," said Strauss, who has taken the lead on converting the former Blue Ridge Outlets complex into a consolidated center for the county's magistrate, circuit and family courts, and related offices.

In the memo, commissioners warned that any changes or modifications to facilities, equipment, electronics, surveillance equipment and/or security measures would be "dealt with in the harshest manner possible to include criminal, civil and/or personnel disciplinary action" and directed any requests to Jay Russell, Berkeley County's facilities director.

Commissioner Ronald K. Collins said employees in the new judicial center should not be concerned that building security personnel would watch their every move.

"We don't have time to be big brother," Collins said.

Collins said Russell essentially would assume the leading role Strauss took on with the judicial center, which still is not fully completed, along with other ongoing county facility projects. Strauss' term as commissioner concludes at the end of the month.

"At the present time, he will be the point man on all of that," Collins said.

In a related matter, county leaders Thursday adopted judicial center policies, including one that clarifies who is allowed to carry a firearm into the building at 380 W. South St.

Teufel said the adoption of the policies represents some of the "growing pains" being experienced by the county that have been prompted by the judicial center.

"Things had never been addressed at that level," Teufel said.

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