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Dougherty named new Jefferson County sheriff

March 05, 2013|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com
  • Jefferson County Board of Education President Peter Dougherty was appointed county sheriff on March 5, 2013.
File photo

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — Peter Dougherty, president of the Jefferson County Board of Education, Tuesday was appointed to replace ousted Jefferson County Sheriff Bobby Shirley on a 3-2 vote following public interviews.

Jefferson County Commission members Walter Pellish, Dale Manuel and Patsy Noland voted for Dougherty. Commissioners Jane Tabb and Lyn Widmyer went for retired Charles Town Police Chief Louis Brunswick. Steve Groh, an assistant county prosecutor, the third candidate interviewed Tuesday, received no votes. 

The three candidates were singled out for interviews from an original list of 16 applicants. Tuesday’s interviews and the commission’s vote for Dougherty were done in open session.

Dougherty, 60, of Charles Town is retiring after 19 years as a senior policy advisor with the Department of Veterans Affairs. He said he will also step down as president of the Jefferson County Board of Education, a post he’s held for 21 years.

He said he will wear mostly civilian clothes on the job, but will, when he feels it’s necessary, wear a department uniform. He will carry a service revolver, he said. “I don’t plan on going out on patrol.” 

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The sheriff also serves as the county treasurer and runs the tax office. 

His salary, by state law, is $44,800 a year plus he earns 2 percent of all delinquent taxes collected to augment his salary up to $15,000.

Dougherty, like Brunswick and Grove, said the tax and law enforcement functions are already being very well served by their respective chief deputies, Teresa Hendricks and Jesse W. Jones. He plans no changes, he said.

“My first responsibility will be management,” he said. “There are good people in both offices.”

The law enforcement division has 25 deputies and the tax office eight. The sheriff’s department also provides court bailiffs and animal control officers.

Shirley, elected in November to a second four-year term, pleaded guilty Jan. 14 to federal charges he violated the civil rights of a suspect beaten after a 2010 police chase.

He was observed on several police cruiser video cameras kicking the suspect while the suspect was on the ground and in handcuffs.

Shirley was forced to step down as sheriff following his guilty plea for violating the suspect’s civil rights. Currently on home confinement, Shirley faces a federal prison term of up to 10 years.

Each of the three candidates were given two minutes to introduce themselves. They were asked the same questions, most of which centered on such issues as knowledge of the department’s functions, their management style, priorities, budgeting abilities and how the department should deal with the community.

Each was asked why they wanted to be sheriff.

Brunswick said he is familiar with law-enforcement issues, knows how to manage a police department and meets all the qualifications for the job.

Groh said in thinking about the position he had to ask himself why he would take a pay cut to be sheriff.

“No one goes into law enforcement for the paycheck,” he said. “It’s job satisfaction. You can make a difference.” He also said as prosecutor he has a good working relationship with police.

Dougherty said he was level-headed, even-keeled and works well under pressure. “You’re looking for someone who can manage, take the daily stress and handle emergencies.”

Dougherty will serve until the November 2014 election, at which time he will have to run for office if he wants to stay in the job. Whoever wins that election will serve the rest of Shirley’s term, which ends following the 2016 general election.

Dougherty said he plans to run for the job in 2014.

Among the 16 contenders to replace Shirley was Earl Ballenger, a 61-year-old who changed his party affiliation just 22 days before he applied for the job. 

The move raised the eyebrows of the commissioners, but Attorney General Patrick Morrisey ruled this week that it doesn’t matter how long Ballenger has been a Democrat. He was still eligible for consideration since the commission was legally obligated to appoint another Democrat.

The commission sent Morrisey a letter last week asking whether it could consider how long an applicant had been registered with the party.

After choosing Dougherty, the commission took a second, unanimous vote expressing confidence in him, Manuel said.

Manuel said he wanted an experienced administrator and manager to run the sheriff’s department and oversee about two dozen employees. The department already has a competent chief deputy to focus on the police work, Manuel said, but he lives in Berkeley County and was not eligible for the position.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.



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