By Kyle Lovern
August 23, 2013
WILLIAMSON - Although the scheduled agenda for the Mingo County Commission meeting on Wednesday was overshadowed by the announcement of the indefinite suspension of Emergency Services and Homeland Security Director Jarrod Fletcher and the resignation as the county purchasing agent by indicted Commissioner David Baisden, business as usual was still conducted.
The final reading and adoption of the increase in the Hotel/Motel ordinance for the county from three percent to six percent was passed. Ray Curry of the Delbarton Volunteer Fire Department addressed Commissioners Greg “Hootie” Smith and John Mark Hubbard concerning their annual allotment that was needed to help purchase two air packs for a fire truck that was recently purchased, explaining that the tanks were required to certify the emergency vehicle for use. An amount of $5,000 was allotted, with a breakdown of $2,500 for each of the Delbarton fire stations. The Baisden Volunteer Fire Department was also awarded their request for $2,500.
County Clerk “Big Jim” Hatfield spoke to the commissioners to once again, ask for permission to hire two employees that he says is needed to complete a purging of records process that could, if not corrected, end in a lawsuit against his office.
A national watchdog group for voters who constantly and carefully monitors voting activity nationwide has placed the Mingo County Clerk’s office on notice that their records show that the names of registered voters on the books equals more than what the census shows that lives within the county.
“These are not people who are actually casting votes,” explained Commissioner Smith, “but it is names that remain on county voting records that are deceased or no longer reside in Mingo County.”
“According to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office, this is a legitimate complaint and could result in a legal battle.”
“I have 6 employees in the downstairs office and six upstairs,” said Hatfield, while speaking with the Williamson Daily News about the staffing issue. “I had eleven employees when I first took office and that wasn’t enough to take care of everything that needs done in here, we have a lot of responsibilities. Now, we’ve only got eight and there’s no way of getting everything accomplished. I need help to get these records purged and it’s a lengthy process.”
Hatfield has faithfully attended each and every county commission meeting since the first of the year and has presented two names for consideration of hiring, and feels that because these individuals may not be in the same corner as the commissioners inside the political arena, the answer to his request is always the same – that being “no”.
The commissioners, however, have offered what they feel is a solution to the problem by stating that they have two employees they can transfer into the county clerk’s office and if he agrees to their transfer, would then consider allowing him to choose one additional hire.
“I’ve already tried two people out that the commissioners transferred into my office and that didn’t go well at all,” said Hatfield. “For the life of me, I can’t understand why every other office holder in this courthouse gets to choose who they hire but I’m singled out and treated differently.”
“I’m going to keep up this fight and do my best to get additional hires to help the girls in my office because they are overworked and underpaid,” stated the clerk. “We have had to start closing the office from noon until 1 p.m. just to allow then time to grab a bite of lunch and I hate that because it’s an inconvenience to the public but there’s no other way around it.”
“If they will let me hire additional workers, we can stay open during that hour to better accommodate those that need to do business in our office, but not until.”
Hatfield stated that he will continue to ask to be placed on the commission agenda and plans to keep requesting permission to hire, but says he honestly doesn’t expect a different answer.
The next meeting of the county commission is scheduled for Wednesday, September 4th, at 9 a.m.