The Upshur County Commission ruled Thursday that the Buckhannon man still seeking to have his name on the November sheriff's ballot will have to put up a $1,500 bond to appeal an earlier decision to the county's Circuit Court.
David Taylor, who finished second to Chief Deputy Mike Kelley in the Republican primary for sheriff, contested the results of the election after a federal Hatch Act complaint was filed against Kelley by an unidentified citizen. The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees, along with state and local employees who receive federal funds in their salary or who oversee federally funded projects from participating in partisan political elections. Kelley was told by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel that he either could drop out of the election or resign his position with the sheriff's department.
Kelley opted to withdraw from the election, and the state's Elections Committee formally approved his request. The Upshur County Republican Executive Committee this week approved placing Dave Coffman on the ballot at its nominee. A registered Republican, Coffman had filed a petition with the county clerk's office to run for sheriff as an independent candidate. After receiving the nod of the county Republican leaders, Coffman withdrew his petition and accepted the party's nomination.
He will square off against another independent candidate, Sherman Baxa, in November. There was no Democratic candidate in the May primary.
The county commission in July had ruled that Kelley should be considered an eligible candidate for office, though admitting it had no authority over federal issues.
Taylor and his attorney, Charles Crooks of Morgantown, immediately announced they would be appealing that decision, saying that the Hatch Act made Kelley an ineligible candidate and that Kelley was afforded all protections and benefits due to other Civil Service deputies. Deputies covered under Civil Service law are required to resign their positions to run for partisan office.
The $1,500 bond which Taylor will be required to pay with the filing of his appeal was set to help the county commission offset its legal costs. The commissioners hired an outside attorney, Timothy Stranko, at a rate of $310 per hour. County Administrator Willie Parker said if the commissioners' decision is upheld, the court could rule that Taylor may be responsible for an additional costs over the bond amount. Parker also said the court could determine that each party is responsible for their own share of the legal fees.