Tempers flare; opinions voiced at Commission meeting

Rachel Baldwin rbaldwin@civitasmedia.com

September 18, 2013

WILLIAMSON - Although the Mingo County Commission meeting held Monday morning began in a calm manner, it did not end on that same note.

At the conclusion of each meeting, the commissioners allow members of the public to speak if they so choose. Several in attendance took advantage of that offer and voiced their opinions concerning rumors and allegations of wrong doing that are centered on elected officials. Recently, rumors have been running rampant throughout the county and the public is questioning who to trust and who they believe needs to step down or be removed from office.

First to take the floor was Katrina Brown who spoke of her support for C. Michael Sparks, Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney.

“I’m here to speak today on what a fine man I believe Michael Sparks is,” said Brown. “He has always been fair in any dealings my family has had with him, he’s honest and sincere, and I know he is a good Christian man.”

“He’s good for our community; we want him left in his position to continue serving the public. My family is here today and we want him to know that we’re behind him 100 percent.”

Michael Baisden, a Williamson business owner, spoke next and had an entirely different perspective of the situation.

“I read the press release defending himself that Michael Sparks gave to the media after the last commission meeting, and I’m here to say I’ve never read a bigger pile of puffery in my life,” commented Baisden. “My dad always said that if a man gives you two answers to a question then they’re lying…Michael gave us three.”

“You say you were intimidated by Judge Thornsbury, Michael. You were the highest form of law enforcement in this county. If you would have presented all the evidence that you had about his wrongdoings when you first become aware of what was going on, this investigation would have occurred a long time ago.”

“Elmer Fudd could have got an indictment against Thornsbury with the evidence you were privy to.”

Sparks was in attendance and spoke up, saying that it was evident that Baisden was grandstanding for personal gain and had an agenda for what he was doing, telling those in attendance that Baisden had been lobbying for a magistrate’s position and there wasn’t even a vacancy at this time.

Commissioner Greg “Hootie” Smith asked Baisden to hold his comments under the 2 minute mark to allow everyone who wanted a chance to speak the opportunity to do so. Before taking a seat, Baisden commented that Sparks was known for voicing that he had done a great job for the public and compared that to a window washer bragging on windows he had cleaned on the 84th floor in a building that no one could see.

Scotty Sammons was the third speaker to take the floor and jumped to the defense of Sparks and was visibly upset with the statement Baisden had relayed.

“I’ve known Michael all my life. He’s a good, honest Christian man that goes out of his way to help others. You’re entitled to your opinion Mr. Baisden, but mine differs from yours by 110 percent. He’s not to blame for any of this mess. He did the right thing and helped with the investigation into all this stuff.”

Local Attorney Della Cline-Gentile questioned Sparks about the amount of money he thought the county would be out if the cases that were settled in Circuit Court while Jerrod Fletcher was the grand jury foreman had to be retried, or at the very least, went over thoroughly for possible infractions. Sparks stated that there’s no accurate way of speculating on the possible cost should that scenario occur, that can only be answered in time.

Trellis Cisco, of Beechcreek, summed up his feelings on the matter by saying, “We can all sit in here and blabber all day and argue about it and express our opinions but in all honesty, we need to not jump the gun; we need to wait and see what the outcome of the federal and state investigations are before we begin pointing fingers and accusing people of wrong doings before we know for sure if it’s true or not.”

Cisco said that if Sparks is found to have not been involved in the political corruption that has cast a huge, dark cloud over the county and has thrust the citizens of Mingo in the public spotlight in a negative way, there will be a lot of people who will owe him an apology.

“Let’s just wait and see how it ends,” said Cisco. “It’s the right thing to do.”

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the county commission will be Wednesday, October 2, at 9 a.m.