CHARLES TOWN - Attorney General Patrick Morrisey issued his first formal opinion Thursday evening, and it was the information the Jefferson County Commission had been waiting for since Jan. 18. The commission has been unsure of what steps the state will or will not allow for it to take to find a replacement for Robert "Bobby" Shirley who resigned in January.
Five questions were presented to Morrisey's office from the commission: is there a timeframe in which the commission must appoint; when should an election be held to fill an unexpired term; can a special election be held; if a special election is held, when is it allowed to be held; and how should candidates be nominated.
In his six-page response to the commission, Morrisey indicated that the county commission should act as quickly as possible in filling the current vacancy. According to commission president Dale Manuel, this means the county should look to make an appointment.
"I don't want to delay this, and we should go ahead and carry on with the process, in my opinion," Manuel said Friday.
The commission is required to officially post for interested residents of the county to apply for this position. Applicants are required to be of the Democratic party and reside in Jefferson County.
Interim manager of the department Jesse Jones said he is not interested in pursuing the sheriff's position, but is comfortable handling the department until an appointment can be made.
According to Morrisey's opinion, when a position is vacated prior to the general election, an appointment must be made, and that appointment will expire at the time of the next general election, which is in 2014.
Options have previously been discussed among the commissioners of allowing Jones to continue in his current role until the next general election or holding a special election in place of making an appointment. Manuel said due to Morrisey's response, the commission will not be able to pursue either of those options.
Currently, the county commission is not planning to hold a special meeting, but rather will take action on the path forward during its next regular meeting.
At last Thursday's meeting, prior to Morrisey's released opinion, the commissioners decided to carry forth the topic as an agenda item until a decision on how to proceed could be reached.