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West Virginia panel: Police can’t be school board members

CLARKSBURG (AP) — The West Virginia Ethics Commission says police officers can’t serve on county boards of education.

Police officers already hold a public office, based on relevant case law, the commission said in a recent advisory opinion.

The term “public office” is not defined in the state code, which the Commission uses to determine a candidate’s eligibility for a county board, the opinion said. But relevant case law has determined criteria to judge whether a position is a public office. The criteria include whether the position was created by law; and whether the duties, tenure, salary, bond and oath have been prescribed or required.

Former Clarksburg police officer Michael Daugherty, who was elected to the Harrison County Board of Education, requested the advisory opinion. He resigned from the police department after his election in May was questioned by the school board’s attorney.

Daugherty said he was disappointed by the advisory opinion.

“For us it’s a job. We didn’t get elected into this position. For them to say you want to serve the public but you can’t is just depressing. I’m at a loss for words with this,” Daugherty told The Exponent Telegram.

Although the opinion does not affect Daugherty, he said he believes the issue needs to be challenged.

“I think it really needs to be looked at, but that fight would have to go all the way to the (U.S.) Supreme Court,” he said. “To say that you don’t have the right to serve the people, it’s mind-blowing to me that they would issue this ruling. Every Fraternal Order of Police in the state needs to rise up and challenge this.”

Following the May election, the Harrison County school board hired an outside attorney went to court to request a declaratory judgment on the issue. Both sides agreed that the litigation was unnecessary after Daugherty resigned from the police department. He will join the school board on July 1.

Daughter had said earlier that he sought the Ethics Commission’s opinion because he was concerned about other officers who may want to run for seats on county boards of education.

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