The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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June 22, 2006

Monroe County Commission to fight lawsuit

During a special session Wednesday, Monroe County commissioners unanimously agreed to fight a lawsuit filed against them by six sheriff’s deputies.

“We met with the prosecutor on Wednesday and passed a resolution to authorize him to proceed and prepare a response to the lawsuit,” Commission president Craig Mohler said Thursday. “We will not be discussing a lot of the details publicly, but we are looking at several options.”

County Prosecutor Rod Mohler — Craig Mohler’s brother — will represent the commission in the lawsuit. The commission also ordered an additional lawyer could be hired if needed.

The lawsuit names Commissioners Mohler, Oliver Porterfield and Joyce Pritt and Sheriff Robert Mann as defendants. It claims a recent directive by the commission ordering the deputies to take alternating 10 days of unpaid leave is illegal and a violation of West Virginia law. Mohler said the mandatory leave without pay action was a response to serious overruns in the sheriff’s payroll budget due to overtime and compensation pay.

Although the county commission borrowed $40,000 from a local bank in early June in order to pay the deputies, Mohler said additional revenues have recently come in to keep the paychecks rolling for now.

However, he said he still believes the same problems will exist this time next year if changes are not made.

“One option would be to follow the letter of the civil service law and lay off one or two deputies,” he said. “But for now there is no immediate danger of not making payroll and we will not have to borrow any money to squeak by.”

Mohler said the commission held off paying the county’s bills for April and May because of the shortage of funds, but has since paid them.

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