(12/31/2016)
By David Hedges, Publisher
Times Record-Roane County Reporter

At their last meeting of 2016 Tuesday, Roane County Commissioners weren't sure who would be in office when the new sheriff's term starts Sunday, Jan. 1.

"A lot of people think about law enforcement, but the sheriff is also the county's treasurer and is responsible for tax collections," prosecuting attorney Josh Downey said. "It's a very important job."

Bo Williams was elected sheriff in November, but before the month was over, he found himself placed on administrative leave from his last job as a Spencer Police officer after evidence reportedly came up missing. (see related.story) Williams resigned from his position with the city Dec. 12, but has given no indication what he will do about the sheriff's job, with less than a week to go before his term is to begin.

Current sheriff Todd Cole has agreed to stay on, and Downey said that is allowed under a law that says the current sheriff can continue to serve until his successor is "elected and qualified."

When other county officials elected in 2016 gathered last week to take the oath of office from Chief Circuit Judge David Nibert, Williams did not appear.

But Downey said it doesn't require a judge to administer the oath. He says the way he reads the law, a notary public could administer the oath.

Once administered, the oaths of office are traditionally put on record in the courthouse.

It's possible Williams could have taken his oath, or will before his term starts Sunday.

But no one knows for sure.

"We haven't heard anything," Roane County Commission President Melissa O'Brien said after Tuesday's meeting.

Cole is finishing out the last two years of the term of Mike Harper, who retired in 2014, midway trough his second term, for health reasons.

Cole is a 27-year-veteran of the sheriff's office, serving as a deputy, chief deputy and as sheriff for two terms, from 2001-2008.

He hoped to serve as chief deputy to finish out his career, and chose not to run for the job earlier this year. But it looks like he may have it again.

At the same time Cole became sheriff again in December 2014, Williams left his position as a deputy to go to work for the Spencer Police Department.

While WV MetroNews reported that Williams went to rehab after he was placed on leave by the city, Cole told the Charleston Gazette-Mail he doesn't think that was accurate because he saw Williams around Spencer during that time.

Shortly after he was placed on suspension, Williams' wife told this newspaper that he was "out of state."

Cole said Williams had no disciplinary record during his eight years at the sheriff's department.

County Commissioners can file a petition with the court to have a three judge panel consider removing a public official for malfeasance in office, but Downey said that can't be done until an official actually takes office. Even then, Downey said it appears the reasons for removal must involve events that occurred while the person is in office.

A State Police officer from the Elizabeth detachment has been assigned to investigate the missing evidence, while the Wood County Prosecutor's office has also been appointed to the case after Downey, asked to be recused.

Last week Downey asked the felony charges in two drug cases be dismissed for lack of evidence. He said he had personally witnessed an officer confess to taking the evidence and consuming it.

Williams was the investigating officer in both cases.

READ TIMES RECORD/ROANE COUNTY REPORTER


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