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Outgoing sheriff to be named chief deputy

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When he takes office next month, Kanawha County Sheriff-elect Johnny Rutherford intends to make his brother -- current Sheriff Mike Rutherford -- his chief deputy.

Johnny Rutherford, who served as his brother's chief deputy over much of the past eight years, intends to announce the choice at a Kanawha County Commission meeting today. The sheriff-elect is currently executive director of the Kanawha County Metro 911 Center.

Johnny Rutherford said that he intends to make few changes within the hierarchy of the Sheriff's Department, and current department heads will keep their positions.

Allen Bleigh will remain chief tax deputy. Don Searls will remain chief deputy in charge of day court and the day report center, and Harry Carpenter will remain chief deputy in charge of the home confinement program.

Keller will be appointed chief deputy in charge of the legal process division, a position Johnny Rutherford used to hold.

"I think the Sheriff's Department has done well the last eight years," the sheriff-elect said. "It works. We want to keep up that momentum."

Both Rutherfords spent all day Tuesday on the scene of a massive gas line fire in Sissonville, along with other emergency responders and dozens of Kanawha County sheriff's deputies and supervisors. "Yesterday just reinforced it in my mind," Johnny Rutherford said. "We worked like a well-oiled machine."

Theresa Kirk, executive director of the state Ethics Commission, said county officials are allowed to hire relatives under certain conditions, but the commission has never specifically addressed hiring a relative to a high-level position where the relative answers directly to the elected official.

Ethics officials have ruled that it's not appropriate to hire a relative who lives in the same household or if the elected official has a direct financial stake in the arrangement.

Out of concern for violating state ethics rules, Johnny Rutherford said he asked an independent group that included Kanawha County prosecutor Mark Plants, Charleston Mayor Danny Jones, former sheriff Art Ashley and a former state trooper and county deputy to look at the possibility of the new sheriff hiring his brother.

All agreed it would be in the public's best interest to appoint Mike Rutherford as chief deputy, the incoming sheriff said.

"The County Commission has the last word and can always turn it down if they want," Johnny Rutherford said.

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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