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Kanawha commissioners await results of Plants inquiry

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County commissioners said Tuesday they have not discussed what Prosecuting Attorney Mark Plants' arrest might mean for the Prosecutor's Office.

Commissioners wouldn't say if they think Plants should step aside until the case is resolved, and said they have not discussed a petition for his removal.

On Thursday, the West Virginia State Police arrested Plants for allegedly violating a protective order granted to his ex-wife last month after she accused him of child abuse. Plants said he found his sons in an unattended vehicle outside a local pharmacy and stayed with them until his ex-wife, Allison Plants, came out of the pharmacy.

Plants' arrest would not prevent his employees from doing their jobs, Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said.

"I know every single one of them," Carper said, "and I know that they are attending to their business."

County Commissioner Dave Hardy said it's too early to discuss if Plants should step down or step aside until the case is resolved.

"It's clearly a distraction to that office right now," Hardy said, "but I'm not going to convict him without all the facts."

Carper said he also needs more information before discussing the future of the Prosecutor's Office. "I have absolutely no idea of the facts to what occurred, and I obviously wasn't present," he said.

Commissioner Hoppy Shores couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

In 2011, Plants fired an assistant prosecutor who was charged with driving under the influence. Scott Reynolds was charged with DUI after midnight on a Sunday, and was fired later that same day. The incident "is absolutely unacceptable, of the general public and especially people who are in my office," Plants said at the time.

According to state law, the removal of an elected county prosecutor requires a petition signed by at least one elected official and entered into court records. That court would then forward the petition to the West Virginia Supreme Court, which would appoint a three-judge court to hear the petition for removal.

Plants' arrest could undermine the public's trust in the courts or the Prosecutor's Office, Carper said, but added that there are checks and balances to ensure everyone is treated fairly.

"I don't have concern that someone's rights aren't being protected," he said.

Hardy called Tuesday's arrest "sad and painful" for everyone involved.

"I'm going to lay aside the political issues and the public-policy issues and say that it's painful as a parent to watch," Hardy said.

Reach Travis Crum at travis.crum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.


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