By RACHEL C. DOVE
WILLIAMSON - C. Michael Sparks, Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney, is the county official responsible for overseeing that all elections abide by guidelines set by the state to assure that legal and ethical rulings are in place that are honored and obeyed.
After having circumstances brought to his attention from several local candidates and investigating the allegations himself to verify they were based on truth and not fiction, Sparks penned a letter of request to the office of Natalie Tennant, West Virginia Secretary of State, in an attempt to receive assistance in alleviating this problem that could very easily cast yet another cloud of suspicion over Mingo County politics.
The letter reads as follows, in its entirety:
Dear Secretary of State Tennant:
Please be advised that I have been made aware of numerous irregularities in connection with the May 2012 primary election, including, but not limited to, the following:
Chief Deputy Clerk Judy Harvey and Deputy Clerk Alberta Ferguson are the election officers for the Mingo County Clerk.
Chief Deputy Clerk Harvey is the wife of Mingo Magistrate candidate Jim Harvey.
Deputy Clerk Ferguson is a cousin/relative of Commissioner Candidate and current sheriff, Lonnie Hannah.
Chief Deputy Clerk Harvey handed the campaign cards of Commissioner Candidate Hannah, Sheriff Candidate James Smith, who is currently Chief-Field Deputy and Magistrate candidate Harvey to an individual registering to vote in the County Clerk’s office.
Chief Deputy Clerk Harvey advised an informant that the informant would be employed as an election worker if the informant changed their party affiliation from Democrat to Independent. The informant was thereafter asked whether they supported Commissioner Candidate Hannah in the primary election.
Numerous individuals who have long been duly registered as Republicans or Independents and routinely served as election workers in previous elections were not employed for the May 8, 2012 primary election.
Numerous election workers approved by the Mingo County Clerk’s office have changed party affiliation from Democrat to Independent since Jan, 15, 2012. The majorities of those that have changed party affiliation to be employed as election workers openly support and attend campaign functions of Commissioner Candidate Hannah, Sheriff Candidate Smith, Prosecuting Attorney Candidate Charles West and Magistrate candidate Harvey.
On Friday, April 6, 2012, after 4:20 p.m., Deputy Clerk Ferguson stated that she needed to call and advise Prosecuting Attorney Candidate West to file a Campaign Financial Statement before the imminent filing deadline. West filed such report with numerous errors after the close of the business and filing deadline. West then filed an Amended Campaign Statement several days after the filing deadline on April 10, 2012.
Chief Deputy Harvey and Deputy Clerk Ferguson have a conflict of interest that should disqualify them as election officers due to their family, personal and political relationships with certain candidates.
In addition to the irregularities and unethical conduct specified in the above statements, numerous witnesses, including myself, have observed Benjamin Cisco on multiple occasions behind the counter in the election room of the Mingo County Clerk. Although Cisco has been appointed by Mingo County Clerk Jim Hatfield as Democrat Ballot Commissioner, it nevertheless demonstrates a profound lack of professionalism and ethics to permit Cisco to have access to voter information via computers, records and files.
Cisco has openly and vigorously campaigned for certain candidates and has been accused of defacing campaign signs. Cisco’s ready access to voter information, including social security numbers, creates an appearance of impropriety at best and epitomizes corruption at worst.
A physical altercation almost occurred in the clerk’s office due to concerns about the numerous irregularities and unethical conduct of Mingo County Clerk employees.
Mingo County Clerk Hatfield appears to lack the necessary competence, leadership and impartiality to properly serve as the chief election officer of the May 8 primary election.
As Chief Election Officer of West Virginia, you have pledged your commitment to ensuring fair and open elections. It is clear that Mingo County Clerk Hatfield is unwilling or unable to ensure a fair and open May 8 primary election. Therefore, I reiterate my request that an election specialist be assigned to hereafter supervise the election activities of the Mingo County Clerk up to and including the May 8 primary election.
Thank you for your favorable consideration of my request.
C. Michael Sparks, Esq., Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney
Copies of this request were also mailed to Colonel C.R. “Jay” Smithers, Superintendent and Major J.B. Schoolcraft, Chief of Field Services for the WVSP, both located at the WVSP Headquarters, 725 Jefferson Road, South Charleston, WV 25309.