CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Ritchie County Sheriff Bryan Backus disagrees with State Ethics Commissioners who advised him not to use money from the county's concealed weapons permit fund to pay for flight lessons and airplane rentals.
Backus had asked the State Ethics Commission if he could continue using surplus county money to earn his pilot's license, in hopes of one day manning a fixed-wing airplane for the sheriff's department.
Backus said he would fly an airplane to enforce traffic, eradicate illegal drugs and help with search and rescues. The airplane would also provide aerial surveillance while police conduct search warrants and conduct extraditions and transports, he said.
However the Commission issued an advisory opinion on Thursday, concluding that the sheriff's private gain would outweigh any public benefit from his license.
"Most of the stated reasons for the proposed use of aircraft are not critical for law enforcement or are duplicative of services already available at no cost, e.g., drug eradication and searches for missing children," commissioners wrote in the opinion.
Backus would only have about two years remaining in his second term once he obtains the pilot's license, according to the Commission.
Backus told the Gazette-Mail on Saturday that he would continue to work toward his pilot's license, but would pay for it out of his own salary. He disagreed that his license would outweigh the public good and said he did not want it for his own personal gain.