While no formal vote was taken Thursday, the Jefferson County Commission dropped plans for a special election this year to replace former Sheriff Bobby Shirley, who was forced out of office after pleading guilty in a federal civil rights violation case.
Commission President Dale Manuel estimated that it would cost about $200,000 to hold a primary in May followed by a general election in November.
The commissioners appointed Jesse W. Jones, Shirley’s chief deputy, to serve as interim manager following Shirley’s resignation.
If they chose to appoint a replacement to serve until the 2014 election they must, by law, name a Democrat since Shirley is a Democrat.
Another option, favored by Commissioner Walter Pellish on Thursday, would leave Jones in charge of the department through the 2014 election cycle. An appointee must be a county resident with a high school diploma.
“It’s a simple solution,” he said. “The county got a black eye over this (Shirley’s legal issues and his subsequent resignation). We need to get past this through the nonpolitical democratic process,” Pellish said.
Commissioners said Thursday they are waiting for an opinion from the office of Patrick Morrisey, newly elected state attorney general, on whether they could hold a special election or if they can keep Jones in a temporary position through 2014.
The commissioners are advertising for potential appointees to submit resumes. So far, five residents have responded, officials said.
On Jan. 14, Shirley pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Martinsburg to violating the civil rights of Mark Daniel Haines, a suspected bank robber, following a pursuit that ended in Berkeley County.
According to court records, video footage taken from police car dashboard cameras showed Shirley kicking Haines repeatedly, including several times when Haines was down and handcuffed. Haines was treated for a broken nose, eye socket and rib, among other injuries.
Prosecutors, as part of the plea bargain, dropped a second charge of obstruction against Shirley for allegedly falsifying a sheriff’s department use-of-force report, according to court records.
A sentencing date for Shirley will be set following a presentence investigation. He faces a maximum 10-year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine.