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Jefferson Co. Commissioner Surkamp calls criticism 'intense overreaction'

October 29, 2007|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - Reacting to recent criticism directed at him by his peers, embattled Jefferson County Commissioner Jim Surkamp on Sunday seemed undaunted by the attacks and asked, "Are we shooting the messenger?"

Surkamp said in a telephone interview that dealing with government issues sometimes leads to conflict and said he thinks the criticism of him has been an "intense overreaction to issues."

"I don't see this as a personal issue with anyone at all," Surkamp said.

Surkamp has been at the center of controversy at times since he was elected, mostly because of his interaction with other county officials, and his comments about county programs and staff.

Last Thursday, outgoing commission attorney Brandon Sims said she wanted the commissioners to pass a resolution she presented that corrected a statement Surkamp made in regard to a judicial annex.

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The resolution said Surkamp accused the commission's attorney of a deliberate delay of a review of a contract for the annex, which caused the cost to rise by more than $1 million.

The resolution from Sims said legal counsel provided documents showing the delay of the contract was caused by another employee.

The resolution was passed on a 3-2 vote, with Commissioners Greg Corliss, Rusty Morgan and Dale Manuel voting "yes," and Surkamp and Commission President Frances Morgan voting "no."

Although Frances Morgan has expressed concern about how Surkamp deals with issues, she said she felt the resolution was "unwise" because it focuses more on negative issues.

"This is going a bit far for my tastes," Frances Morgan said.

Surkamp said Sunday he still believes questions need to be asked about why it took 10 months to review a contract for the judicial annex and said commissioners need to be allowed to ask "hard questions."

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