Favoritism accusations raised in Putnam assessor race
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Accusations of favoritism and cronyism were cast during a Daily Mail editorial board meeting with candidates for Putnam County assessor.
Republican incumbent Sherry Hayes and Democrat D.W. "Peachie" Arthur, who served as the assessor until Hayes defeated him in 2008, met with the editorial board on Thursday.
During the meeting, Arthur accused Hayes of giving higher raises to employees in the assessor's office who favored her during the 2008 election.
"I believe I done a good job in the 12 years I was in office," Arthur said. "I didn't show no favoritism."
Hayes responded, "I treat everyone fairly. I bring leadership to the office."
Arthur had originally said he was running for office to "help Sherry out."
"She needs to be with her grandkids," he said. "And I hate retirement."
Arthur then said he also didn't agree with how Hayes ran her office. When asked to elaborate on what he disagreed with, or what he would do differently, Arthur initially refused to answer.
However, a few minutes later, he broached the topic of favoritism in the office. Hayes gave an employee a lower raise than was provided to other employees because that employee had supported Arthur during the 2008 election, he said.
Hayes said she gave raises based on work performance.
She did place one woman over the personal property tax department, she said. The employee is now head of that department for a three-month probationary period.
"If she can do it, and I think she's doing a good job, then yes, she will get a fairly good raise," Hayes said.
Hayes does not believe in across-the-board raises. Instead, she said she prefers merit-based adjustments.
The county commission approves raises for each department. However, commissioners can tell the elected officials, such as the assessor, only how much they are providing to the office for raises.
It is then up to the elected official to distribute the funds as he or she sees fit.
Hayes also defended herself when it came to the issue of a business owner in the county who had not paid taxes. The owner, who Hayes admitted was a good friend of hers, had agreed to a payment in lieu of taxes, she said.
However, he made a mistake and believed he was paying his taxes after the agreement came to an end, she said.
"He said he thought he was paying his taxes, and I told him no, he wasn't," she said.
However, the situation began when Arthur was assessor in 2007, she said. The issue has now been resolved and the business owner is paying the back taxes, Hayes said.
"Favoritism, no, it didn't have anything to do with me," she said.
The topic of drug testing employees in the office also came up during the meeting. Arthur would institute a drug testing policy for all employees in the office, he said.
Currently, only employees who drive county-owned vehicles are drug tested, Hayes said.
However, she said she agreed with a blanket drug testing policy starting with the elected officers themselves.
Hayes said she believed she knew why Arthur brought up the issue of drug testing. A few years back, an employee in the office failed a drug test, and Arthur gave that individual a chance to quit or be fired, he said.
Hayes re-hired the person, Arthur said.
"He is a very qualified individual," Hayes said.
The county also has a policy that states the employee can undergo drug counseling to save his or her job, she said.
"He is drug tested every time, and he passes with flying colors," Hayes said.
Hayes also pointed out that Arthur drug tested only employees who operated county-owned vehicles when he was assessor.
The county's goat fund also was mentioned during the meeting. Owners of goats must register their animals and pay a tax similar to the dog tax, Hayes said.
The money collected is used for predator control in the county, Arthur said.
He also claimed the program was voluntary when he was in office.
"No, it wasn't," Hayes quickly responded.
Arthur served as county assessor from 1997-2009. He was also a Putnam County school bus driver for nine years.
Hayes worked in the assessor's office from 1998 to 2008 before defeating Arthur.
"I'm running so I can serve another four years," she said.
Arthur believes he is better qualified to serve as assessor and that he is a better manager, he said.