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Plants to contribute to special prosecutor fund

By Rusty Marks, Staff writer

Members of the Kanawha County Commission voted to accept an offer from prosecutor Mark Plants’ office to help pay for a special prosecutor while Plants' office is barred from handling cases involving children or protective orders.

Last week, county commissioners Kent Carper, Dave Hardy and Hoppy Shores voted to take part of a $79,000 drug forfeiture account Plants has to help pay the cost of a special prosecutor.

In April, Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom ordered Plants and his staff from handling cases involving child abuse and neglect, violent crimes against children by their parents or guardians, or criminal violations of protective orders after Plants was arrested and charged with domestic battery for allegedly spanking his son with a belt and violating a protective order not to have contact with his ex-wife or children. The county commission is currently paying one special prosecutor to handle those cases from which Plants is barred, and another special prosecutor to handle the misdemeanor criminal charges against Plants.

Following last week's meeting, Plants agreed that the drug forfeiture money should help offset the costs of the special prosecutors, and offered to provide another $25,000 from his annual budget in addition.

For the first time in months, Plants attended Thursday's county commission meeting in person to discuss the offer again. "If a tar and feathering has to happen I'd rather have it happen sooner than later," Plants said.

Neither Carper nor Hardy said they intended to tar and feather the prosecutor, but they did have some questions about Plants' ability to help pay for the special prosecutors.

"I'm not here to judge your personal life," Hardy said. "My concern is the financial side."

Plants originally offered $75,000 of the $79,000 in drug forfeiture money, but Carper was worried that might leave Plants in a financial bind. Carper instead suggested Plants turn over $50,000, and said commissioners could come back for more money later if necessary.

Carper and Hardy also worried taking an additional $25,000 out of his regular budget might hurt Plants' ability to handle cases. Plants said he could find the money without cutting salaries or affecting performance of the prosecutors.

Hardy also asked Plants to hold off on filling several vacant positions in his office until the issues requiring the special prosecutors are resolved.

Also Thursday, commissioners voted to give $24,500 to the Tyler Mountain Volunteer Fire Department for a permanent, natural gas-powered emergency generator. The fire department is putting up another $10,000.

Commissioners also agreed to help pave a parking lot at the Sissonville Community Center.

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


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