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Former Berkeley Co. sheriff's deputy sues for old job, back pay

P. Shannon Layne claims in a lawsuit that he was wrongfully terminated

September 29, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A former sheriff's deputy wants a judge to order Berkeley County to reinstate him to his job and pay back wages and other benefits he would have accrued since being terminated in May 2011.

P. Shannon Layne claims in a lawsuit filed on Sept. 23 by attorney Barry P. Beck that he was wrongfully terminated in violation of the Deputy Sheriff's Civil Service Act.

Kenneth M. Lemaster Jr., in his capacity as Berkeley County sheriff, and the Berkeley County Council were named as defendants in the pending complaint that asks the court for a writ of mandamus to be issued, ordering compliance. The civil action was assigned to 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gina M. Groh, according to Berkeley County Circuit Clerk Virginia M. Sine's office.

Lemaster and Norwood Bentley III, the legal counsel for the county council, declined to comment on the suit.

Both indicated they had not reviewed Layne's complaint, which also asks the court to order the defendants to pay the former deputy's attorney's fees and other costs stemming from the pending complaint.

After a four-day trial, a jury last month found Layne innocent of charges that he sexually abused a woman in July 2010.

Layne was placed on administrative leave after he was indicted in October 2010 on two felony counts of first-degree sexual abuse. He was notified on April 28, 2011, that he was "under a departmental investigation" for the alleged conduct, according to the lawsuit.

The day before Layne was terminated on May 2, he asserted his right not to submit to interrogation and polygraph examination unless Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely agreed that his statements would not be used against him in the pending criminal case, the lawsuit said.

Layne was terminated for alleged insubordination because of his refusal to submit to questioning after he learned that he was not entitled to immunity for his statements, the lawsuit said.

Layne, who had worked for the sheriff's department since August 2006, contends he was not provided with a notice of his right to a "pre-disciplinary hearing" in violation of the Deputy Sheriff's Civil Service Act.

The lawsuit claims the sheriff's legal counsel advised on May 20 that such a hearing for Layne was not required, and that the sheriff declined to convene one.

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