State officials are looking at revamping the way the Regional Jail Authority handles suspensions and terminations.
When an officer is accused of impropriety, he or she is suspended without pay pending an investigation. Once the investigation ends, the officer is either cleared and receives back pay for time off or the accusation is upheld.
Then the officer is subject to disciplinary action or firing.
Fired guards are given 15 days of severance pay.
DeLong said last month that rule allowed a Southern Regional Jail officer who was arrested for sexually abusing female inmates to collect more than $3,100 in severance while sitting behind bars.
State Police arrested William Roy Wilson, 39, of Beckley on Sept. 20 on felony charges of soliciting sex from female inmates. The same day, State Auditor's office records showed Wilson was issued a $3,143.53 termination check.
During an October Regional Jail Authority meeting, DeLong said the check was required by state rules.
But when lawmakers asked DeLong about the payment Monday, he said that wasn't actually the case.
"I was wrong," he said. "The rule, as we break into it more deeply, does define in acts of gross misconduct that someone does not get severance."
DeLong said if he had a chance to make the decision again, he would not have issued the check.
"I would say the inappropriate sexual misconduct that this officer was accused of, we would certainly find that as gross misconduct," he said.
But beyond that case, DeLong said the legal definition of "gross misconduct" is still somewhat of a "gray area."
He plans to have meetings with Division of Personnel officials to go over the rules and recommend improvements.
Some lawmakers said they would support a change in either state personnel laws or rules extending the severance pay exemption beyond gross misconduct.
"I think maybe you should change the rule where you don't pay severance for any type of misconduct," Sen. Gregory Tucker, D-Nicholas, said.
"Severance, in private industry, is typically used in a reduction in force or to entice someone to leave," Tucker said. "I've not seen it used where there's been misconduct of any sort."
Contact writer Jared Hunt at jared.h...@dailymail.com or 304-348-5148.