MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A West Virginia sheriff who resigned in disgrace over the beating of a bank robbery suspect was replaced Tuesday by a school board president, not a Republican rival who changed parties to angle for the job.
The Jefferson County Commission appointed former probation and parole officer Peter Dougherty with a 3-2 vote, Deputy County Administrator Sandy Slusher McDonald said. Dougherty is currently president of the county Board of Education.
Dougherty has also worked as a magistrate and a staffer to former U.S. Rep. Harley O. Staggers Jr. He was to take office immediately.
He replaces Robert Shirley, who pleaded guilty in January to federal charges he violated the civil rights of a suspect beaten after a 2010 police chase. Shirley is on home confinement while awaiting sentencing.
Among the 16 contenders to replace Shirley was Earl Ballenger, a 61-year-old Republican who changed his party affiliation just 22 days before he applied for the job.
The move raised the eyebrows of the commissioners, but Attorney General Patrick Morrisey ruled this week that it doesn't matter how long Ballenger has been a Democrat. He was still eligible for consideration.
Shirley was re-elected last November even as he faced the federal charges, but he resigned and pleaded guilty to federal charges of deprivation of rights under the color of law. A second count of falsifying records was dismissed.
He faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when sentenced.
Prosecutors said the beating of bank robbery suspect Mark Daniel Haines was captured on surveillance video from police cruisers involved in the high-speed chase.
Haines, who says he suffered serious injuries when Shirley kicked and stomped on him, is serving a 19-year sentence for bank robbery. His civil lawsuit against Shirley is set for trial this fall.
Dougherty, of Charles Town, will serve until the 2014 general election. The winner of that race will then fill Shirley's unexpired term, which ends in 2016.