Recommendations made for reinstatement of terminated officer

Rachel Baldwin Staff Writer

September 3, 2013

WILLIAMSON - In an exclusive interview with the Williamson Daily News, C. Michael Sparks, Mingo County’s Prosecuting Attorney, said he has made a recommendation for a full reinstatement with back pay for Arthur Farra, a former Sargent with the Mingo County Sheriff’s Department.

Sparks said new evidence has come forth in the case which resulted in a suspension and firing of Farra on Feb. 15, 2013, after allegations were made that he violated the department’s Rules of Conduct Article III, Section B, which states that, “A member must promptly obey all lawful and proper rules, regulations, orders and instructions written or otherwise, however transmitted or received.”

The suspension letter was followed by a notice of termination on February 20, 2013, and the decision by Sheriff Eugene Crum was then upheld after a formal hearing took place on March 18th before the Deputy Sheriff’s Civil Service Commission to review the evidence surrounding the case.

“Evidence has recently been disclosed to me that the reason listed in the complaint for Sgt. Farra’s termination was simply a pre-text for an underlying reason and a personal dislike for the officer that was held by Sheriff Eugene Crum and possibly other elected officials,” commented Sparks. “As soon as I became aware of this information, I immediately sent my recommendation and facts of finding to the Mingo County Commission as well as to the attorney who now represents the officer, that being Michael Callaghan.”

“Although I cannot disclose the exact details of the information I was given because it plays a role into the federal investigations that remain ongoing in the county, I will say that it is my firm belief that Sgt. Farra was terminated for less than credible reasons and should be immediately reinstated,” said Sparks. “I’m sure that before long, the details surrounding this case will be made public.”

The findings of fact is included in the minutes of the March 18th Civil Service Commission meeting that was acquired from the County Clerks’ office, and read as follows.

“On the 18th day of March, 2013, pursuant to notice given by the MCSD Civil Service Commission, came the petitioner, Arthur Farra in person and his counsel, Andrew J. Katz, and the Respondent Eugene Crum in person and by his counsel C. Michael Sparks, the Prosecuting Attorney, for a hearing before the Deputy Sheriff’s Civil Service Commission members President Jeffrey Cline, Nelson Hall and Phillip “Bob” Wellman (Cline and Hall have resigned from these positions since this hearing too place) as well as their counsel, Ronald Rumora.

It states that Farra was assigned to the Mingo Central High School as a Resource Officer effective in January of 2013, shortly after Sheriff Crum took office. He was instructed to be present at the school between the hours of 7 a.m. when the first buses began to arrive until approximately 3 p.m., when the buses depart. The assistant principal testified during the termination hearing that Farra was habitually late and left earlier in the afternoon that he was supposed to. The principal further testified that there had been at least 5 or 6 days that the officer failed to report to work at all and did not phone the school to give them advanced warning or to explain why. Farra was also allegedly absent from the outer perimeter of the school when buses arrived and left the facility.

A meeting was scheduled on February 15th at the school and the officer was instructed by an administrative assistant in the sheriff’s office that he was required to attend. The administrative assistant stated during the hearing against Farra that she radioed the officer on February 14th and once again advised him he was required to attend and was asked “did you copy,” to which Farra allegedly replied “10-4.” Shortly after this radio transaction took place, the officer is said to have come to the sheriff’s office for a discussion about the matter and allegedly told the assistant “I’m not going”, and was then told “You better go.”

The termination order from Sheriff Crum was upheld by the Civil Service Commission, with their President Jeffrey Cline, signing the form, ruling that “Sgt. Arthur Farra’s failure to promptly comply with the Sheriff’s order constituted misconduct of a substantial nature directly affecting the rights and interests of the public.”

“I have recommended to the County Commission that Sgt. Farra be immediately reinstated to his former rank and position and receive his full back pay for the time frame that he was not working,” said Sparks. “I feel that his termination was improper and this injustice should be corrected. I also feel that he should be awarded monetary damages for this situation as seen fit by the court.”

Sparks also told the Williamson Daily News that Jeffrey Cline, whose name has been identified in the federal indictment against Michael Thornsbury as being a co-conspirator to frame Robert Woofruff (the wife of Thornsbury’s secretary whom he allegedly was intimately involved with) has resigned from the Civil Service Board, as well as board member Nelson Hall. The names of the two individuals recommended and nominated to fill the two vacancies are Charlie Justice and Jarrod Belcher, but neither has formally accepted these responsibilities as of press time today.

“It’s time we undo all the injustices in this county that we possibly can, and I assure the public that is my goal,” stated Sparks. “It will not be an immediate fix, but day by day, we are working toward this purpose and I pray that the citizens of this county will see that there are indeed efforts being made to right what is wrong.”

Attorney Michael Callaghan (who also is the attorney of record for the Woodruff’s) acknowledged that he does represent Sgt. Farra and will see that the rights of his client are protected to the fullest extent of the law.

More information on this case will be released to the public as it becomes available.