PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — The president of the Wood County Commission doesn’t think it will take long for a commission-hired attorney to determine if the commission should take steps to try and remove Sheriff Steve Stephens from office.
David Blair Couch said the commission has hired Charleston-based Goodwin & Goodwin. He said the legal team is being led by former U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin. The five-member team began interviewing people linked to the sheriff’s office Monday.
It’s a fact-finding effort, Couch told MetroNews Tuesday.
“They’re going to come back to us at the end of their investigative work and Booth (Goodwin) will decide if we have grounds for removal or if we don’t.”
The commission has the authority to file a petition with Wood County Circuit Court to seek removal of a county officeholder. A three-judge panel would then be appointed to here evidence.
It’s been alleged that Stephens uses a heavy-handed approach in running the office. The deputies association has given him a vote of no confidence. A civil lawsuit alleges negative training in the Stephens administration.
Stephens has not commented.
Couch said he hopes the process doesn’t result in a three-judge panel but the commission must be ready if that’s where the investigation leads.
“We believed once we started getting handed more and more allegations that we had an ethical and moral duty to investigate this with competent investigators to be able to provide guidance to the commission on how to proceed,” Couch said.
Couch said the interviews that some workers are going to be asked to give are voluntary.
“We think there are some that may not want to be interviewed based on retribution but they may give us information that will lead to a decision,” he said.
Couch doesn’t think it will take Goodwin and his team long to finish in the investigation.
“We like to move fast and I think Booth Goodwin understands that and sees eye-to-eye with us on how to move on that,” Couch said.
Stephens has been the Wood County sheriff since 2017.