EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSKanawha Commissioners Discuss Payments For Special Prosecutor
from Eyewitness News Online
Reported by: Stefano DiPietrantonio, Kennie Bass, Leslie Rubin
Reported: Jun. 12, 2014 11:42 AM EDT
Updated: Jun. 12, 2014 11:33 PM EDT
Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia
Kanawha county commissioners hashed out a deal Thursday, when they met to come up with a plan to pay for a special prosecutor.
Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants and his office have been ordered not to handle domestic violence cases involving parents and children, pending a criminal investigation.
Plants offered commissioners a proposal that would offset the cost of paying the special prosecutor.
There was progress. At least now there is a plan in place to get the special prosecutor paid, and maybe a way to come up with the rest of the money by not filling any of the open positions inside the prosecutor's office.
The commission and Plants arrived at a deal late in the day Thursday on how to pay for a special prosecutor and how to move forward with a backlog of cases his office cannot prosecute.
"I'm very happy that the commission's been open and is willing to work with me," Plants said. "I think they were responsible and we have a candid conversation, about the allocation of limited tax dollars, and i appreciate their working with me on this issue."
The commission will use $50,000 of the $75,000 in the drug forfeiture fund to cover some of the special prosecutor’s bills, with $25,000 left in case of an emergency.
As for Charleston police sounding-off about how that money is used, Plants fired back.
"I think they're totally off base,” he said. “This account has nothing to do with CPD. When they seize money, they get 90 percent, and by code, they can do whatever they want with 90 percent. That 10 percent is my legal fee that goes to the prosecutor's office – that, under the code, can be spent pretty much for anything law enforcement-related. "
Commission President Kent Carper said everyone is moving in the right direction.
"I think the commission has made it clear,” Carper said. “We're not going to allow an innocent, career prosecutor to be punished for something that they did not do wrong."
There are positions open at the prosecutor's office right now. Not filling those may solve any remaining money questions.
"It appears they could help pay for this mess, themselves," Carper said.
Carper said county employees ready to relinquish part of their salaries to help plants would have been foolish and bad policy.
There is still more to work out. The county commission meets again June 26.
Kanawha County commissioners met Thursday to discuss how they will continue to pay for a special prosecutor.
Prosecutor Mark Plants has been ordered not to handle domestic violence cases involving parents and children, pending a criminal investigation filed by his wife.
Plants offered commissioners a $112,000 proposal that would offset the cost of the special prosecutor.
Kanawha County commissioners are scheduled to meet in an effort to nail down exactly how the county will continue to pay for a special prosecutor, doing the work that Prosecutor Mark Plants' office can't.
It is unclear whether Plants or anyone from his office will attend the meeting slated for 5 p.m. Thursday. They didn't attend the last meeting that was set to discuss the same issues -- issues that County Commission President Kent Carper said everyone is sick and tired of hearing about, but need addressed.
The county is currently paying $200 an hour for special prosecutor Don Morris to prosecute cases of domestic violence that Plants and his office can't because of Plants' own legal issues. Morris' first bill was just under $24,000 and is expected to be around $300,000 if he is special prosecutor for a year.
Plants has offered up a plan that would use $75,000 from the office's drug forfeiture fund, reduce the general budget by $25,000 and Plants has agreed to waive a personal salary increase of about $11,000. Carper questions the salary waiver because he hasn't elected to take the increase and must do so by July 1. Carper also questions where the $25,000 in cuts will come from and doesn't want them to affect what he calls "blameless employees."
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