|State Supreme Court Rules In Favor of County Commission in Greenbrier County Case|
|Thursday, 01 December 2011 00:00|
On November 10, 2011, the West Virginia Supreme Court filed its decision in the case styled County
Commission of Greenbrier County, West Virginia v. Honorable John L Cummings and James W. Childers, Sheriff of Greenbrier County, West Virginia
The Greenbrier County Commission reduced the budget of the Sheriff of Greenbrier county for the fiscal year 2011-2012. The Sheriff challenged the budget reduction in court. The trial court found that the County Commission acted arbitrarily and capriciously in reducing the Sheriff's Budget and directed the Commission to do the following:
1. To allocate sufficient funds in the 2011-12 budget for the Sheriff to fill any necessary vacant positions;
2. To meet and confer with the Sheriff to determine an amount that is fair and reasonable to uniform and train personnel and to discuss and resolve any other remaining budget items for fiscal year 2011-12;
3. To present a revised budget not later than June 7, 2011-12.
The Greenbrier County Commission met with the various public officials on March 8, 2011, including the
Sheriff and advised the Sheriff to review his budget requests in light of the funds available to fill those requests since the county was currently faced with a tighter financial situation.
The Commission, in setting the Sheriff's budget for fiscal year 2011-12 noted that Sheriff Childers' budget had increased over $940,000 in the two years he had been in office, and the Commission compared the
Sheriff's budget with past budgets of the Greenbrier County Sheriff's office as well as the law enforcement budgets in other counties.
Looking at the figures for 2010-11 the Commission observed that Fayette County employed 30 deputies; had a population of 46,123; and a law enforcement budget of $1,016,645 compared to Greenbrier County's employment of 27 deputies; a population of 34,527; and a Sheriff's budget of $2,171,175. Pursuant to the trial court's ruling the Commission made multiple attempts to meet and confer with the Sheriff, and when those efforts were unsuccessful, the Commission filed a petition for a writ of prohibition with the W. Va. Supreme Court of Appeals seeking to prevent enforcement of the writ of mandamus granted by the trial court. In upholding the Commission's actions and granting the writ of prohibition the Supreme Court held that "Before any action would be warranted in connection with a county officer's claim that he or she is prevented from fulfilling his or her statutory duties based on budgetary concerns, there must be first be an evidentiary proceeding through which the issue of inadequate funding within the meaning of W. Va. Code § 7-7-7 is established. In this case, the record is devoid of any evidentiary basis for the trial court's conclusion that the Sheriff's statutory duties will be affected by the reduction." The court went on to hold that the trial court's award of attorney fees was improper.