County Commission Attorney Melissa Foster Bird
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Kanawha County Commission voted unanimously Thursday night to file a petition with the state Supreme Court to remove elected county prosecutor Mark Plants from office.
The commission’s unanimous vote came after an explanation of a 24-page petition by the commission’s attorney Melissa Foster Bird.
“He has committed malfeasance in office, misconduct in office. He has violated court orders which were in place to protect innocent victims,” she said.
The petition focuses on Plants’ inability to prosecute domestic violence cases because he’s been charged with two domestic-related misdemeanors. The county is paying the office of a special prosecutor approximately $1,000 a day to handle those cases. Foster Bird told the commission Plants cannot do what he was elected to do.
“When it’s all put together, when the pieces of the facts and the law are all put together in one puzzle–I think the petition makes it clear that a removal action is both warranted and necessary,” she said.
The petition is expected to be filed with the state Supreme Court Friday morning. The court will then appoint a three-judge panel to consider the case.
Commissioner Dave Hardy said he was convinced the county had a strong case when reviewing a case from a few years ago against a Logan County prosecutor who was removed from office without being convicted of a crime. Hardy said there is currently a fatal flaw in the performance of Plants as prosecutor.
“As we stand here today he cannot perform the duties of his office and there’s no end of this in sight,” Hardy said.
Commission President Kent Carper said he ultimately determined enough was enough.
“This has to end. That’s what did it for me. It has to come to an end,” Carper said.
Plants, who did not attend the meeting, has previously said he will fight the removal attempt. He has called Carper and Hardy “political bullies” and said he wants his day in court. Plants maintains he has come up with money in his own budget to help pay for the special prosecutor and he’s saved the county thousands of dollars in other ways in his nearly six years as prosecutor.
Meanwhile, Plants is scheduled to be in Princeton Friday for a hearing on the two criminal charges. He said earlier this week he wants to back out of a pretrial diversion agreement and take the cases to trial.
City of Charleston domestic violence victims’ advocate Kim Eagle urged the commission to do the right thing Thursday night. She said she believes there are domestic violence victims who are currently not coming forward because of the uncertainty created by the Plants situation.