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Commission Discusses Options For Pushing Plants Out

Reported: May. 27, 2014 10:40 PM EDT
Updated: May. 28, 2014 12:38 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Kera Mashek) -- Kanawha County Commissioner David Hardy is now joining calls asking for Prosecutor Mark Plants to resign.

Plants is at the center of a criminal investigation over allegations of domestic abuse of his son and violating a protective order. Because of that investigation, Plants' office is banned from prosecuting certain domestic violence cases. A special prosecutor has been appointed to handle all of those cases. Hardy argues Plants isn't entirely performing the functions of the job he was elected to do.

The other concern is the cost of having that special prosecutor in place. In the past month alone, the county's bill for those services was nearly $25,000, and those costs will just keep piling up as long as the current situation with Plants continues. That is pushing commissioners to plan some serious action that could ultimately push Plants out of office.

"I certainly don't have the ability to force him to leave," Hardy said. "I do, however, have the ability though to speak up as one of the three people elected by the public to administer the county's budget, and when I see dollars being spent for this, and I realize all the other needs we have, it's very disappointing."

The special prosecutor's office is being forced to handle nearly 400 cases after the courts ruled Plants' office can't deal with domestic violence cases. Commissioners said that alone -- by law -- is proof Plants is incapable of doing his job and shouldn't be able to stay in office.

Commission President Kent Carper said you "can't be prosecutor if you can't attend to the criminal business of the county -- all the criminal business of the county."

And the costs to keep paying the special prosecutor will just keep racking up.

Special Prosecutor Don Morris said he certainly didn't want to be in a position "where the taxpayers of this county are getting punished for something that they don't have a responsibility for."

But the county said that is exactly what's happening and commissioners fear the taxpayers could be paying both the special prosecutor and Plants for the next year if the pre-trial diversion, which Plants agreed to last week, stays put.

Hardy said the county is looking at an expenditure of $24,000 a month for at least 10 to 12 months "so that's a quarter million dollars we'll be spending on a special prosecutor to do the work that the county is already paying the prosecutor's office to do. Now it's becoming a financial issue for the county."

That is leaving commissioners to insist that if the Supreme Court doesn't vote to toss Plants from office by next Friday's deadline, or if he doesn't resign, they will call a special meeting to move forward with filing a petition for removing him.

That petition would still have to be reviewed by a three-judge panel, then back to the Supreme Court. Eyewitness News reached out to Plants for comment about these developments, but he did not respond.



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