WILLIAMSON, W.Va. (AP) — Some Mingo County residents are calling for the resignations of the county’s prosecutor and a county commissioner amid state and federal investigations.
But Prosecuting Attorney Michael Sparks and Commissioner Greg “Hootie” Smith say they will not step down. They also say they are continuing to cooperate with the federal investigation in the county.
“The latest media grandstanding by others is a perfect example of the petty factional politics and personal vindictiveness that has plagued Mingo County government for decades,” Sparks said in prepared statement.
“While I deeply respect the freedom of speech and assembly, self-serving demagoguery serves no constructive purpose and merely reinforces the prevailing negative image of Mingo County,” he said.
Smith said the voters should decide whether someone should be removed from office.
“I believe it’s the voters who put people into office and it should be the voters that remove people,” said Smith. “If the voters want to file the proper procedures to have a person removed before the election, they have the right to do that.”
Their statements came Wednesday in response to residents’ calls for their resignations during a County Commission meeting, media outlets reported Thursday.
“I think that Barnam and Bailey circus oughta make their winter quarters right here,” Michael Baisden, who runs a business in Williamson, told the commission. “That’s what they’ve been running here.”
Both Sparks and Smith are part of the Team Mingo faction of Democrats. Baisden, a Republican, ran unsuccessfully against Delegate Justin Marcum, another Team Mingo member, in 2012.
Other residents claimed Sparks had ignored their cases or hadn’t listened to their complaints.
In August, a federal grand jury charged Mingo County Circuit Court Judge Michael Thornsbury with trying to frame the husband of his secretary for several crimes. Thornsbury was having an affair with the secretary, according to the indictment.
Federal prosecutors have given immunity to a West Virginia State Police trooper and a friend of Thornsbury’s who testified before a Mingo County grand jury about the judge, the Charleston Gazette reported.
In a separate federal case, County Commissioner Dave Baisden, who is not related to Michael Baisden, was charged in August with extortion.
There also is a state investigation of alleged election law violations in the county. The West Virginia Prosecuting Attorneys Institute appointed Kanawha County assistant prosecutor Dan Holstein as a special prosecutor to help the Secretary of State’s Office with that investigation. The appointment must be approved the Mingo County Circuit Court, the Charleston Daily Mail reported.
Sparks told the Daily Mail that he asked the court to disqualify him from helping in the state investigation because the allegations involve an employee in his office and statutory clients.