EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSPlants Has No Intention Of "Sticking Around For Years, Costing Taxpayers," If Case Against Him Isn't Resolved
from Eyewitness News Online
Reported: Jun. 5, 2014 12:19 PM EDT
Updated: Jun. 5, 2014 6:24 PM EDT
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Leslie Rubin) -- Tensions mounted in a Kanawha County courtroom Thursday, as Prosecutor Mark Plants is once again at the center of controversy.
His chief of staff, Dan Holstein, had filed a motion last week, offering up a plan that would cut back on special prosecutor Don Morris' hours and duties, to try to save tax payers money.
At this point, it's not about Plants' guilt or innocence, when it comes to the charges against him. That's on hold, while the legality of a pretrial diversion in his case is being questioned. The issue right now is about the tax dollars being spent on a special prosecutor, because of the conflict his personal matters have created on the job.
"I served this county for 27 years as an assistant prosecutor," Morris said during the hearing. "Never had my name impugned. Never been accused of doing anything unethical and then I have these two make these allegations. Judge, I'm not here fighting for my salary. That's not what I'm here for. I'm here fighting for the integrity of the special prosecutor who's trying to do a very important job."
Morris fired back at initial claims made in Holstein's motion that called Morris' $200 an hour pay "grossly excessive."
"I fail to see and understand why you are meddling in a matter that you have no standing to participate in," Judge Duke Bloom said to Holstein.
Holstein filed an amended motion 10 minutes before Thursday's hearing, changing the description of Morris' salary from "grossly excessive" to "inequitable."
"I don't have my Webster's dictionary with me this morning, judge, but I believe 'inequitable' means 'unfair,' " Morris said. "I didn't set the fee, your honor. I didn't ask for this job."
Morris said he believed the motion was filed to take the attention away from Plants' problems, following discussions by the Kanawha County Commission to possibly file a removal petition against him.
Holstein said they are offering Morris another member of Plants' office to help with a caseload of 65 pending felony trials.
"We are simply offering another asset to the special prosecutor," Holstein said.
Morris told the court he was offended, and felt he was wasting time on the matter at hand, which he said could have been spent on the citizens of Kanawha County.
"You can sit there and smirk all your want to, Mark. It's not funny," Morris said. "There is nothing funny about this. They caused the problems. The problem is caused by Mr. Plants' personal actions that have caused his office to be taken off hundreds of criminal cases."
After the hearing, Plants referred any comments to Holstein, but Eyewitness News wanted the elected prosecutor himself to answer the question everyone is asking.
"Do you feel like you need to resign?" asked reporter Leslie Rubin.
"That's completely premature," Plants said. "The criminal charges are still pending. We need to figure out the outcome of that, and then we'll see how long it lasts. I have no intention of sticking around a year and costing the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. That's not going to happen. I'm going to see how my criminal cases work out, and if they're dismissed in a short amount of time, then it will work out for me. I have no intention of sticking around for years costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. As a taxpayer, I'm appalled by that."
"How long is too long to stick around then?" Rubin asked.
"We'll have to see what the agreement is when it's done," Plants said. "I just can't comment about anything about my pending criminal charges. I just can't comment."
-- To view the full video of the hearing, go to the Raw News section of our website.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Leslie Rubin, Heath Harrison) -- Tensions mounted Thursday in a Kanawha County courtroom after Prosecutor Mark Plants' office was seeking to cut back on the special prosecutor's hours and duties, in what Plants' office called an effort to save taxpayer money.
Judge Duke Bloom was not happy with Plants and members of his office’s criticism that special prosecutor Don Morris' $200 dollar an hour pay was "grossly excessive."
Bloom was also not pleased that they filed a motion just minutes before the hearing, changing that language to say the pay was "inequitable."
Bloom said Plants and his office were impugning the integrity of the special prosecutor's office. Morris fired back at claims his pay is excessive.
Plants' office has offered a member of their staff to help Morris and his caseload. Morris said he could use the help, but he would have to think about and decide who he would like to bring over. Morris said he would not decrease his time.
He will let Bloom know when he has made a decision. Morris said he was offended he was spending time dealing with the matter, when he could be spending time on actual cases.
When Morris has made a decision, Bloom said both sides could prepare an agreed order for him to approve.
"I don't mean to sound angry, judge. I don't usually lose my temper. I spent hours preparing a response to this, that could have been given to the victims of Kanawha County. Hours responding to an accusations. You can sit there and smirk all you want to, Mark. It's not funny. There's nothing funny about this. They caused the problems. The problems are caused by Mr. Plants' personal actions which has caused his office to be taken off hundreds of criminal cases," Morris said.
Morris said the integrity of the special prosecutor was being attacked, and believes the motion was made to direct attention away from Plants' personal problems. Plants did not wish to speak after the hearing, and directed questions to his chief of staff.
Plants did say it was premature for him to talk about resigning, but that he had no intentions of wasting taxpayer money.
Watch Eyewitness News tonight for more on this story.
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