Democrats look for replacements following sheriff’s resignation

Shirley is expected to change his plea on Monday

BRYAN CLARK Spirit Staff

trial of Jefferson County Sheriff Robert “Bobby” Shirley could be delayedor moved from Martinsburg.

Sheriff Robert “Bobby” Shirley has scheduled a hearing to change his plea for Monday.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Following the publication of this article, the Jefferson County Commission has altered the process by which it will choose a replacement for ex-Sheriff Robert “Bobby” Shirley. The County Commission will now directly advertize the position and accept applications. Though applicants must be registered Democrats, as is required by state law, the Democratic Executive Committee will no longer be involved in the process.

CHARLES TOWN – The Jefferson County Democratic Executive Committee is preparing to search for candidates to replace Sheriff Robert “Bobby” Shirley after he resigned from his position Friday evening, less than a month after beginning his second term.

Current Chief of Staff Jesse Jones will serve as sheriff until a replacement can be appointed.

Shirley was required to “take a leave of absence” from his position as part of a modification of his pre-trial release. That modification, which he consented to on Friday, also requires him to turn over all of his registered firearms to the U.S. Probation Office, and to be placed on 24-hour home detention and electronic monitoring.

Shirley is scheduled for a change of plea hearing at 1:30 p.m. Monday at U.S. District Court in Martinsburg. He had pleaded not guilty to the charges in June.

Shirley is currently under federal indictment for allegedly using excessive force during the 2010 arrest of since-convicted bank robber Mark Daniel Haines following a high-speed chase, and for allegedly falsifying a use of force report to cover up the incident. He faces up to 30 years if convicted on all counts.

The Democratic Committee and the County Commission are now gearing up for the process of appointing a replacement sheriff, who will serve until the 2014 elections.

County Commission President Dale Manuel said the Democratic Committee must submit three names to the County Commission. “[The] County Commission will choose, from those three applicants, the individual who will serve as sheriff,” he said.

Manuel said the candidates should be qualified for the position of sheriff, but said that there is no formally established set of qualifications for the position.

“I would want someone who has the qualifications both for administration and law enforcement,” Manuel said, pointing out that the sheriff serves both as the head of county law enforcement and as the county’s tax collector.

“Actually, if you look at the Constitution of the state of West Virginia, you can have two sheriffs. One can be an administrative sheriff, and one can be a sheriff in charge of law enforcement. No one has actually utilized that proposition.”

Manuel said he expects that the timeline for a decision will be about a month or so.

“It shouldn’t be months,” he said. “I don’t think we should be without a sheriff for that long. We want to do a very thorough job, but we don’t want to leave the post open for a long period of time.”

Reva Mickey, head of the Democratic Committee, said she was surprised by Shirley’s decision to step down. “It came as a little bit of a shock to me,” she said.

In the process of selecting the three candidates to serve the rest of Shirley’s term, Mickey promised to keep the process “as transparent as possible.” She said the committee will advertise the position and accept applications for one or two weeks before coming to a decision.

“We’ve got to move on this pretty quickly,” mickey said. “I do already have people who have called and expressed interest in the position,” she said, though she declined to name any names as of Saturday.

Mickey said a number of factors will go into the committee’s nomination decisions.

“Naturally, the first thing is that they have to be a Democrat – a registered Democrat and not just someone who just changed [their registration] tomorrow because a Democrat resigned,” she said. “It would have to be a person who has had some stability in the Democratic Party.”

“The second thing we would be looking for is a person who is well qualified – a person that could walk right into the position and be able to operate efficiently,” she said, noting that county offices are currently drawing up proposed budgets, which have to be submitted in only a few months.

“The real job of the Sheriff is not police work. The real job of the Sheriff is … to collect the taxes,” she said. “We will not necessarily be looking for a total law enforcement person. We will be looking for a person that can do the job of Sheriff.”

“We, in the past, had a Sheriff who was not a law enforcement person, and that was Magistrate Senseney. He served his two terms and did an excellent job.”

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