CHARLESTON — Mingo County Sheriff’s Deputy Max Jeremy Mounts is officially back to work in his professional capacity and was awarded back pay for the seven months he was out of uniform due to a legal proceeding between himself and the former sheriff, Lonnie Hannah, that was eventually heard before the West Virginia Supreme Court and the Civil Service Commission.
Mounts was first employed as a deputy sheriff in Mingo County in February of 2009. In November of 2010, he resigned from his position to accept another job but within a 48 hour period decided to continue working as a deputy, and contacted Chief Field Deputy James Smith to discuss the matter. Mounts stated that Smith did not have a problem with him withdrawing his resignation and advised him to speak with Hannah. The deputy traveled to his boss’s residence to speak with him and was told to come into the office on Monday morning. Upon his arrival, Mounts was told by the former sheriff that he had decided to accept the resignation and that the deputy needed to leave the office, that he was no longer employed.
“He asked me if the shirt I was wearing was purchased by me or if the department paid for it,” remarked Mounts. “Thankfully it was one I had bought or I guess I would have been walking out of the office shirtless.”
Mounts went directly to the Mingo County Commission (MCC) office to inform them of the situation since deputies are joint employees of the two agencies. He was ordered back to work by the commission but was once again, told to leave the sheriff’s office by Hannah. A hearing was then scheduled before the Civil Service Commission who claimed to not have the authority to reinstate the deputy, saying that all they do is supply a hiring roster with the names of qualifying applicants, and stated that Mounts’ name would be entered for consideration for hire. At this time, the deputy retained C. Christopher Younger as his attorney, and the legal battles began.
“I can’t say enough about Chris,” stated Mounts. “He fought hard for me and went above and beyond what he had to do to make sure justice was done and I could continue working in the job that I love.”
Approximately 7 months after Mounts lost his job, Circuit Court Judge Robert Chafin heard the case and ruled that the sheriff was wrong in his decision to not reinstate the deputy, and ordered that he be allowed to return to work. Hannah appealed the case to the WV Supreme Court, but Mounts was allowed to return to work pending the outcome. The case wasn’t ruled on until November of 2012, and released findings that Mounts would continue working as a deputy until the Civil Service Board heard the case once again, which was scheduled for Jan 10th of this year. At this hearing, the Civil Service Board allowed Judge Chafin’s ruling to stand that stated the resignation was void and was not handled properly, and awarded Mounts back-pay for the 7 months he was away from his position, along with seniority for that time period.
“This has been a very difficult and stressful time for me,” said Mounts. “It was definitely a load off of my back to get this behind me. Honestly, the last two years really took a toll on me. I was worried about paying my bills and meeting financial obligations, it’s hard to have a salary that provides a decent living one minute and then gone the next.”
Mounts stated that he was blessed to have a good support system around him during this time, and commented how difficult he knows the situation was on his parents, especially his mother.
“She’s a mom, pure and simple. That explains it all. When your child is hurting or has been treated unfairly, it doesn’t matter how old they are – it’s very upsetting to a mother.”
Mounts commented on the changes that have taken place within the sheriff’s department since Jan 1, and says that he is very pleased with how things are now being done.
“I’m proud that we’ve got a sheriff in office that we can all work for, and it’s fantastic to have a person take the position that is actually a certified police officer,” remarked Mounts. “This is the first time in the history of Mingo County that a certified officer has been voted into office.”
“I’m happy to have Sheriff Eugene Crum as our leader. We’ve got a great group of guys in our department that are tickled to death to be able to get back to doing what we were hired to do – and that’s serving the residents of Mingo County to the best of our ability.”
“I’m honored to be a deputy with the Mingo County Sheriff’s Department.”