The Upshur County Commission approved the hiring of an outside attorney to help it sort through the matters surrounding a contested race for sheriff.
Timothy Stranko, who is employed by the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson, was retained by the commission. He is scheduled to submit a report of his research to the county by June 29 regarding the matter of David Taylor contesting the eligibility of Michael Kelley as an eligible candidate for sheriff. Kelley defeated Taylor by a 2-1 margin in the Republican primary in May.
Taylor contends that Kelley is not eligible to run for sheriff because it would be a violation of the federal Hatch Act, a law which prohibits federal employees and state and local employees whose salary is supplemented by federal funds from seeking office. Taylor also contends that those who oversee federally funded projects from seeking office in a partisan election. Taylor stated in the petition that Kelley not only oversees those programs in his capacity as chief deputy, but that a portion of his salary is based upon those grant programs.
Taylor contends that Kelley's name should be removed from the ballot, and that he should become the Republican nominee for sheriff. There is no Democrat challenger for the position.
The retaining of Stranko by the county commission will cost $310 per hour, plus any other related legal expenses. A status conference involving the commission, along with the attorneys for both Kelley and Taylor, will be held at 1:30 p.m., July 5 in the commission chambers. Some of that hearing may be held in executive session, said County Administrator Willie Parker.
Another pre-hearing conference, this one closed to the public, will be held in the commission office on July 9, Parker said. A hearing involving the petition will be held during a special county commission meeting at 9 a.m., Wednesday, July 18.
Taylor is being represented by Morgantown attorney Charles Crooks, while Kelley has retained Charleston lawyer Frank Hartman.
Contact John Wickline by email at email@example.com.