A former Upshur County sheriff's candidate has appealed a lower court's decision declaring chief deputies are exempt from the Civil Service statutes to the West Virginia Supreme Court, hoping those justices can clean up a mess he believes should have never started.
David Taylor, who lost in the Republican primary for sheriff, filed his Notice to Appeal Thursday. He said he is hoping for an expedited hearing that would allow him to campaign for sheriff, should he be successful in getting his name on the November ballot.
A circuit court decision in September affirmed the Upshur County Commission's July decision that Chief Deputy Mike Kelley was a legal candidate to run for sheriff. Both decisions, however, failed to account for the federal Hatch Act provision which restricts the political activity of federal employees and those state and local employees whose salary is supplemented by federal funds or who oversees employees and programs involved with federal funding.
Taylor said he decided to appeal the decision to the state's highest court because he believes the public's confidence in the electoral process has been eroded by the events of this cycle.
"Mr. Kelley, the 'winner' of the primary election, withdraws under threat of federal prosecution; me, the next highest vote getting candidate, is frustrated in court, and then the local (Republican) party executives ignore me in favor of appointing a candidate to be on the general election ballot who did not even run for office in the first place," Taylor said. "This entire series of events should have never happened, had the local officials simply followed and complied with the laws they were sworn to uphold and respect.
"Unfortunately, engaging in costly litigation is the only way I know how to do my part to ensure the integrity of the electoral process is not further compromised right here in Upshur County, and that the anti-corruption provisions of the current West Virginia deputy sheriff's Civil Service statute are followed," he added.
Taylor said he protested Kelley's candidacy and its possible violation of federal law prior to the May election, but was ignored by the county commission and Sheriff Virgil Miller. Taylor challenged the results of the election as soon as the county commissioners certified the totals.
The briefs filed in support of the appeal asks the Supreme Court to set "significant precedent," saying a decision by the high court will promote awareness and enforcement of laws pertaining to candidates and elections. The briefs also call for the Hatch Act stipulations to be included in the decision, stating "this is the sort of small-town politics that the Hatch Act was enacted to prevent."
Kelley was given a choice by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel to either withdraw from the November election or resign his position as chief deputy because of being in violation of the federal Hatch Act.
Kelley opted to drop out of the sheriff's race, and after that move was approved by the state's Elections Commission, the Upshur County Republican Executive Committee appointed Dave Coffman as the party's nominee. Coffman had filed to run as an independent candidate just days before his Republican appointment. He is slated to face another independent candidate, former sheriff Sherman Baxa, and a write-in candidate, Gilbert Valdez, in the fall.
"With absolute conviction, every one of those ballots cast for me deserves to be respected," Taylor said. "For whatever reason, the Upshur County Republican Executive Committee summarily cast every one of those ballots aside - which were never challenged. Upshur County citizens deserve better.
"Every one of our elected and government officials, including our law enforcement officials, are not above the law. They need to be held accountable."