WINFIELD, W.Va. -- Putnam County commissioners voted Tuesday to make an exception to a nepotism policy for civil service sheriff's deputies.
New hire Heather Valiquette will be hired as a deputy, despite her father's current position as lieutenant on Putnam County Sheriff's department.
Sheriff Steve Deweese said based on the testing procedure, Valiquette qualified for the position by her own merits. He requested the policy exception because of the thorough eight-step hiring process in place for hiring new deputies. The process includes a series of interviews, mental and physical tests, psychological exams and background investigations.
"It's not based on who they know or who worked on whose campaign," Deweese said. "It's based on who can do the work."
County Attorney Jennifer Scragg said the county's nepotism policy prohibits elected officials from hiring close family members, parents and children. It allows hiring members of an employee's family as long as they do not work in the same office.
"She earned the position," Deweese said. "There is a merit system in place. We shouldn't penalize those with family already on the force."
Deweese said he would move current staff members to different positions to ensure limited interaction between Valiquette and her father, Lt. Robert Harrison. Harrison will be moved from road patrol to staff services.
Deweese said if this hire causes the perception of a special hire or preferential treatment, other employees could file grievances with the civil service commission.
Commissioners also voted to sign a Juvenile Accountability Block Grant application requesting $50,000 to station a deputy in Poca High School.
"There have been 665 incidents this year since the beginning of the school year," Deweese said. Disruptive classroom behavior accounted for 450 of the incidents.
The annual grant would require a first year 10 percent match by the Sheriff's department. The match requirement grows five percent each year until capping at 30 percent for the fifth year and beyond. It is a mix between cash and office resources, such as deputy cruisers, gasoline, paper and computer equipment.
If approved for less than the grant application's requested $50,000, Deweese said he would request supplemental funding from the Putnam County Board of Education.