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Commission begins replacement process

By Staff | Jul 8, 2016

The Jefferson County Commission began the process to replace Commissioner Eric Bell at their meeting last week. The group unanimously voted to accept Bell’s resignation, which came after the now former commissioner was charged with sexual abuse by a person in a position of trust, possession of child pornography and distribution and display of obscene material to a minor.

Sgt. W.R. Garrett of the West Virginia State Police’s Crimes Against Children Unit said the alleged victim in the case is a 16-year-old boy for whom his parents trusted Bell as a “mentor.”

While Commissioner Walt Pellish voted in favor of accepting the resignation, he initially attempted to convince his fellow commissioners that the date of acceptance should be 30 days from the date of receipt.

“That would allow us to submit questions to the Attorney General. Without proper response times, in 30 days we lose the ability to appoint and it goes to rhe Republican Executive Committee,” Pellish said. The other four on the panel did not agree.

The group, advised by their attorney, Nathan Cochran, voted to begin advertising for the position immediately, seeking resumes for 10 days.

Cochran told the group that the person they select to fill Bell’s position must be a member of the Republican party; however, he advised that the candidate did not have to be from the Harpers Ferry District, which is where Bell is from and for which district he sought the commission seat.

The commission is calling for resumes and letters of interest from any person who has a desire to be considered for the spot.

Dale Manuel suggested that the process be open and transparent.

“We need to follow the same process as when we had the sheriff position open,” Manuel said. “We need to conduct interviews in public.”

All commissioners agreed on the process of setting open interviews. Those will be scheduled within the 30-day window so that the selection of a new commissioner does not revert to the Republican Committee, which is part of the statute on how to proceed when there is an unexpired term open on the board.

The replacement process should be complete by month’s end.