POINT PLEASANT — Keeping good on its promise, the Mason County Commission has filed a petition to remove Sheriff David L. Anthony, II, from office though Anthony is putting up a fight, proclaiming his innocence on all pending criminal charges as well as allegations contained in the petition.
The petition was filed in Mason County Circuit Court shortly after 3 p.m. on Monday by Attorney Eric J. Holmes from the law firm Harris & Holmes of Ripley - a firm hired by the county to handle removal procedures. The petition has been initially assigned to Circuit Court Judge David Nibert though Nibert does not appoint the three judges which will hear the petition - that decision will be made by the West Virginia Supreme Court.
The long-awaited petition by the county cites four counts of what they allege is malfeasance of office and therefore grounds for Anthony’s removal.
The first count of malfeasance of office contains allegations Anthony misused a county credit card for personal use. The county alleges these charges were found during a “routine audit conducted by the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office” and were for 18 purchases made between Feb. 27, 2011 to April 13, 2011. The purchases are broken down as follows: April 10, 2011, $12.39 to 7-Eleven, $268.70 and $20 to Airtranair, $231.96 to Budget Rent-A-Car, $51 to Port Columbus Parking, $66.67 to Rosen Motels; April 3, 2011, $588.29 to Allegiant Air; April 11, 2011, $100.13 to Hyatt Hotel; Feb. 27, 2011, $6.99 to Mr. Number, Inc.; April 10, 2011 $18.62 to Outback; April 8, 2011, $18.08 to Ponderosa; April 13, 2011, $31.11 to Sirius XM; April 6, 2011, $221.94 to Travel Package-Trip; April 7, 2011, $25 to U.S. Airways; April 8, 2011, $150, $25 to U.S. Airways; April 6, 2011, $569.80 to U.S. Airways; April 9, 2011, $30 to Valet Parking. These charges total $2,435.68.
The county says Anthony claimed the charges were related to county business involving a conference in Orlando, Fla. The county says Anthony could not produce adequate documentation to prove this and then later alleges he conceded the charges were of a personal nature and not related to county business. Although Anthony himself has not answered to this point specifically, he has pleaded not guilty to all charges (financial and otherwise) in the criminal case against him - a case which the commission, at least when it comes to alleged embezzlement charges and a wanton endangerment charge, has seemed to cite verbatim in its petition for removal.
The petition also notes Anthony has paid back the $2,435.68 through payments and a $1,436.58 payroll deduction. The payroll deduction is noted by the county commission through a payroll deduction agreement in relation to paying back “personal expenditures” on his county credit card. The county entered Anthony’s signed payroll deduction agreement as evidence in their petition.
The second count in the indictment alleges Anthony fired a gun in the vicinity of a juvenile relative while intoxicated while in the presence of two Mason County Sheriff’s Department Deputies, though those deputies didn’t arrest Anthony at the time. The deputies later went to the county commission who then contacted the West Virginia State Police to do an investigation. Anthony has also pleaded not guilty to a wanton endangerment charge related to this incident in the criminal case against him.
Count three alleges Anthony applied for and received grant money without the knowledge of the county commission.
Count four cites the 42-count grand jury indictment Anthony is facing, which again, contains at least some of the incidents the county commission has cited in counts one and two of its petition.
In October of last year, a former Deputy Sheriff in Wood County attempted to have the acting sheriff removed via a three-judge panel though the panel voted down the petition. In its ruling, the judicial panel is quoted as saying it was “dismayed and appalled by many of the actions taken by members of the Wood County Sheriff’s Department” but added the allegations could not be proven by the required standard of “clear and convincing evidence.” The Wood County Sheriff was accused of false swearing, assault, battery, intimidation and retaliation.
Once he is served, Anthony and his attorney have 20 days to respond. As of Monday afternoon, it didn’t appear Anthony had been served yet to review the petition and therefore could not comment on specifics. He did, however, release the following statement to The Point Pleasant Register: “I maintain my innocence and plan to vigorously defend myself with the aid of my legal counsel.”