POINT PLEASANT — A rumored “Blue Flu” is circulating around the Mason County Sheriff’s Department, according to an unnamed sheriff’s department source.
The term “Blue Flu” refers to officers calling in sick to work. The unnamed source says some of this “Blue Flu” is due to the return of Sheriff David L. Anthony and possible conflicts between Anthony and other deputies.
The term “Blue Flu” was not used at Wednesday’s regular meeting of the Mason County Commission though Chief Deputy Rob Wilson did acknowledge to commissioners he has been dealing with a shortage of manpower as of late. Though they went unnamed, Wilson said two deputies were out sick, both with excuses from their physicians which excused them from work for an indefinite period of time. Wilson said he has been using the department’s School Resource Officers (deputies located at county high schools) to fill in some of these scheduling gaps.
Wilson said he had used these officers more on weekends so as to minimize any disruption to their time at local high schools. He also said he had sent principals of the high schools new work schedules of the deputies. Wilson did say he felt continuing to keep a school resource officer at Hannan High School without disruption was the best option because this also put an available deputy in the southern end of the county, allowing for quicker response times in that area if needed. This means resource officers at Point Pleasant Junior/Senior High School and Wahama High School would be most affected.
Commissioner Rick Handley asked Wilson if he’d been able to find a contractual agreement regarding the school resource officer program between the Mason County Board of Education and the Mason County Sheriff’s Department. Wilson said he had been attempting to find it but it appears the last contract was seen under the administration of former Mason County Sheriff Scott Simms. Wilson said he was in contact with the administrative staff of Mason County Schools which was also looking for a copy of the contract. Wilson said, obviously, he would continue the search. The contract should have any details about services the school resource officers provide and when, which is particularly relevant now with a shortage of deputies.
Wilson also told commissioners a civil service exam was scheduled for March 22 and it’s possible a candidate or candidates could be found out of that process to possibly refill the department’s ranks with the commission’s approval. The commission did approve the hire of Brian McCormick, a new deputy.
Wilson also said he was in the process of revamping policy and procedures which govern the Civil Service Commission - these new policies would be presented to the county commission for review as well.
Commissioners also reported they had not been informed of any hearing date regarding the petition the commission filed to remove Sheriff Anthony from office. However, commissioners did report the petition has been sent to the West Virginia Supreme Court for appointment of the three-judge panel. Without a jury, the three judges review the petition and can remove Anthony if they agree with the commission’s argument.
As for how much this unforeseen removal process will cost the taxpayers, commissioners couldn’t say, at least not until the process is finished. Of course the taxpayer’s dime has been a point of contention between the commission and Anthony, with the commission’s petition, as well as a grand jury indictment, alleging Anthony used a county credit card for personal use. Anthony has denied these allegations and his attorney, David Moye, has been quoted as saying these credit card purchases are a “misunderstanding.” Anthony has pleaded not guilty to all criminal charges and denies allegations of any wrong doing.
In regards to the petition, a resolution should come sooner rather than later with the law stating the chief justice of the supreme court of appeals shall without delay designate and appoint the three circuit judges not less than twenty days from the date of the filing of the petition. The petition was filed on Feb. 13.
If the panel sides with the commission, Anthony can still appeal the decision.