Last updated: September 04. 2013 7:22AM - 2387 Views
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Having now spent quality time in Mingo County, there may be more questions than answers about the current state of political affairs in Williamson and vicinity.

One point being made by virtually everyone, however, is that the services of Prosecuting Attorney Michael Sparks are in serious doubt. Public announcements in recent days have noted that Sparks is being investigated by the Supreme Court’s Office of Disciplinary Council. In addition, former Mayor Charles West called for Sparks to resign as the week drew to a close.

On the surface, the primary problem folks have with Sparks is that he appears to have at least participated in some of Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury’s schemes to discredit the husband of the judge’s alleged ex-lover. Sparks has offered various explanations for his official conduct, including pointing out that if he reported the judge’s actions and nobody did anything about it, he (Sparks) would likely have been the subject of retribution.

Sparks’ explanation appears weirdly similar to State Senate President Jeff Kessler’s assertion that he would not move a gun bill in the legislature because someone threatened his life if he did not. So much for public officials who stand for what is right, regardless of the personal consequences.

In point of fact, if the allegations contained in Thornsbury’s indictment are eventually proven to be true, Sparks cannot possibly insist he should remain in the prosecutor’s job. It would then be a proven fact that he overlooked illegal acts he knew about and did nothing. As has been pointed out, Sparks could have, at a minimum, reported Thornsbury’s alleged misconduct to Supreme Court officials, who presumably would have kept the complaints confidential. He did not necessarily have to prosecute Thornsbury to keep his own record clean.

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Of course, there are political undercurrents to everything going on in Mingo. West, for example, ran against Sparks in the last election so there could certainly be some personal vendetta involved in his comments.

Still, my visits to Mingo confirm that most people have a good impression of West, at least as far as integrity goes. It is integrity that Sparks is risking – both for himself and his office – if he lingers much longer as Prosecutor. Sparks can insist he worked in an “intimidating environment” all he wants but, as noted, he did have an outlet to the Supreme Court that surely was not intimidating him to keep the judge’s cloak clean.

With the Mingo County Commission meeting this week, West said many more residents will attend and demand Sparks’ resignation.

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Many in Mingo pointed out how closely Thornsbury is alligned with Supreme Court Justice Menis Ketchum. The Justice was sworn in by Thornsbury and supposedly held a fundraiser for him five years ago. Ketchum was also the only Justice who sided with Thornsbury when discipline was instituted a few weeks ago.

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Curiously, Sparks also runs a Prosecutor’s office that could, at best, be described as giving the appearance it is a political – not legal – operation.

One of those in County Commissioner “Hootie” Smith’s law office is an Assistant Prosecutor as is Delegate Justin Marcum, who represents the district in the state legislature.

One wonders how members of the “Chafin Faction” get fair treatment from the Prosecutor’s office when there are so many Team Mingo (aka “Hootie’s Faction”) folks on board.

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It should be noted, perhaps, that many Mingo Countians insist the romantic relationship between Thornsbury and his then-secretary is just a figment of His Honor’s imagination. These folks say Thornsbury repeatedly “hit on” the secretary but she rebuffed him continuously. That, they say, was an insult to the Judge’s ego and he responded accordingly.

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Yes, for those interested, I did get two servings of County Clerk Big Jim Hatfield’s famous bologna sandwiches while at the courthouse last week. Hatfield, about the only courthouse official not connected to Smith and Team Mingo, was his usual cordial self. And the sandwiches were fabulous.

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Whispers continue about why Thornsbury associates purchased radio station WVKM-FM this spring. Apparently, the Judge’s wife, Dreama, is listed as the new owner.

State Republicans insist the purchase has something to do with Thornsbury’s addiction to power and the desire to control the local media. This is despite the fact that the station ranks low in ratings of listeners.

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To figure out what is really wrong with Mingo County government, one knowledgeable source advised me to “just follow the money trail.” Hopefully, that is exactly what Federal officials are doing right now.

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Does Democrat Secretary of State Natalie Tennant hold the key to the biggest Republican victory in decades? Perhaps so.

Tennant, who many have criticized for lacking leadership as the state’s chief election officer, may be on the verge of assuring Republican control of at least the state House of Delegates in 2015.

My theory has long been that if Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito has no meaningful opposition in the 2014 United States Senate election, there will be little reason for Republicans to work their ways to the polls. If it is a rainy day or if there are other things to do, I believe most Republicans will stay home if they are sure Capito is a winner.

If Tennant was to enter the race, as many have suggested she will, the sure Capito victory is down the tubes. While I still believe Capito would win, there would be a tightening in the polls and a win would not be assured. That means little, old Republicans across the state would wander out into the rain and gloom to vote for their candidate, I think.

While at the polls, Republicans would also vote for their ticket, including the legislature. That means that the pitiful leadership of Kessler and Speaker Tim Miley would be on the line and I think Republicans are likely to prevail.

It would be smart for Kessler and Miley to urge Tennant not to run.

* * * * * *

Perhaps the best comment yet from a reader came from the one who noted my comments last week about the removal of nine books of the Protestant Bible. He commented, “About those nine books of the Bible you reported missing. I’m willing to bet Obama stole them.”

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Kanawha County Republican Delegate Suzette Raines did NOT announce she is running for re-election to the House last week, as some political commentators have observed. Raines said she will not run for Congress and will “continue to serve my constituents in the House,” which does not rule out a run for the State Senate, which she announced earlier.

Although any opponent of Raines will surely use the argument that she can’t be trusted to make legislative decisions if she can’t even make up her mind which office to seek, I still believe she would be a formidable Senate candidate in 2014.

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Meanwhile, Ron Walters, Jr., an announced GOP Congressional candidate, is busy assembling a campaign staff and planning some early fundraisers.

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The fewer Kanawha Valley candidates the better for Walters. With folks like former Delegate Larry Faircloth already in the Congressional race from the Eastern Panhandle, Kanawha does not want to dilute its vote.

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We are, in fact, approaching the time when the Eastern Panhandle, as the growing part of the state, will likely control state politics. When the numbers get just a bit bigger in Jefferson and other Eastern counties, the change will occur.

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Walters, on the other hand, will likely benefit from the fact that his family roots run deep in the Eastern Panhandle.

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One wonders how “randomly” jury members are selected in Mingo County when the indictment of Thornsbury is read carefully. How is it that the Judge managed to get his own man on the jury, let alone chosen as foreman? Those named to county juries are supposed to be chosen at random by officials in the Circuit Clerk’s office. It causes one to wonder how great coincidences occur.

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It is also safe to say that, irrespective of comments from the family of the man who gunned down Sheriff Eugene Crum a few months ago, the local Mingo opinion of the late Sheriff is not as favorable as it once was. Crum’s name just keeps cropping up when questions about mischief in Mingo occurs. While he may be as innocent as the driven snow – and I hesitate to even mention allegations about someone who has passed away – those questions will surely be asked in official proceedings soon.

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As always, I welcome comments, rumors and story ideas. Contact me by email or call my cell, 304-533-5185. Confidentially is always assured.

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