WILLIAMSON, W.Va. — A special prosecuting attorney from Kanawha County is expected to soon start working with the Secretary of State's office on its investigation into alleged election law violations in Mingo County.
Mingo County Prosecutor Michael Sparks said Wednesday he recently asked the Mingo Circuit Court to disqualify him from helping the Secretary of State in its investigation.
"The allegations involve statutory clients of mine and also involve an employee in my office so I requested that a special prosecutor be appointed," Sparks said Wednesday from the Mingo County courthouse.
A county prosecuting attorney brings charges on the county's behalf. Officials who work for the county could therefore be clients of the prosecuting attorney.
Kanawha County Assistant Prosecutor Dan Holstein was picked to work with the Secretary of State by the West Virginia Prosecuting Attorneys Institute, said institute Executive Director Philip Morrison.
The agency frequently picks special prosecutors, and was asked to in this case by the Mingo County Circuit Court, Morrison said. He said he spoke with Holstein Wednesday morning about the case.
Before learning about Morrison's decision, Sparks said special prosecutors typically come from surrounding counties. Morrison said he picked Holstein because he works geographically close to the investigators working for the Secretary of State.
The court must approve Holstein's appointment before it's official. Morrison said courts usually agree with the institute's special prosecutor pick, and expected a decision in the next few days.
Holstein did not return a phone message.
Senior Status Judge John Cummings presides over Mingo Circuit Court following Judge Michael Thornsbury's suspension by the state Supreme Court. Thornsbury was suspended after he was recently indicted on federal charges of corrupting the legal process in his alleged repeated attempts to frame the husband of an ex-lover.
Cummings signed an order August 28 disqualifying Sparks from matters outlined in a letter sent to the court earlier in the month by Tim Leach, an attorney with the Secretary of State's office. The order states Sparks told the court the law states he is the attorney for "certain Mingo County elected officials who are under investigation for improper contributions to a political action committee . . ."
The Secretary of State's Office has investigated several elected Democrats inside and outside Mingo County, as well as campaign contributions made to the Team Mingo 2012 political action committee
In 2012, the campaigns of Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick, Treasurer John Perdue, state Sen. Art Kirkendoll and state Senate candidate Mark Wills gave a total of $3,700 to the Team Mingo 2012 PAC.