by Tony E. Rutherford, News Editor
Jurisdictional Legal Issues  Complicate Huntington Accepting Barboursville Offer to Assist Police

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams has clarified remarks concerning the Village of Barboursville offering police assistance to Huntington.

Briefly, Williams did not turn down the offer; instead, he referred it to the City Attorney.

"Things are not as easy or as simple as they appear to be," Williams told Huntington City Council, again stressing "I did NOT turn down the offer," referring to a call and letter from Tatum.

City Attorney Scott Damron, in short, said he could not find legal authority for Barboursville Police to patrol the streets of Huntington, except (perhaps)  in an "acute" circumstance such as a "riot."

In addition, he cited training, liability, and lack of civil service membership as hurdles. 

Williams illustrated the challenge as a jurisdictional one. The WV State Police have authority because Huntington is a political sub division of the state. The Cabell County Sheriff's Dept. has authority because the city is a political subdivision of Cabell County. 

The Mayor read a previously provided response:

“I appreciate the partnership and friendship of Mayor Chris Tatum and Chief Mike Coffee. Their selfless offer reflects their dignity and integrity. While we appreciate their offer, we hope to not have to need their assistance. With the help of the WV State Police and others, we are making strides in curtailing crime. Our region is blessed by leadership that understands that we all must stand together to gain an upper hand over this horrid drug crisis.”

Explaining that Mayor Tatum, the former Cabell County manager, is "a friend," the Mayor told Tatum in the phone call, "we do business professionally. I'll ask the city attorney for advice."

 Damron advised council, "From my research, there would have to be  a legal way for them to provide (police services) to Huntington," adding , the Village of Barboursville is not a part of Huntington.

One statute appears to allow their use in "an acute situation," similar to a "riot."  Otherwise, Damron said , "it's not totally impossible... but nearly impossible to work out," referring to substantial liability issues in a potential mutual aid agreement where Barboursville officers would join in patrolling  Huntington streets. 

Williams added, "We had calls from across the state, too." 

Steve Davis speaking as chairman of Concerned Citizens of Cabell County wrote:

"Sheriff Chuck Zerkle deputizes all officers in Barboursville. This allows them to operate anywhere in the county. Clearly we need to discuss a Metro system in our area. Protecting citizens is the first and foremost duty of the Mayor's office as well as council's." 
 

One social media response on the city's web site stated:

"  I see the mayors point of making sure it would be legal... I could only imagine a Bville officer making an arrest in Huntington and that person's lawyer try to use the loophole that the arresting officer was not in his jurisdiction and the charges get dropped. There are ways to make this work, though,   but it would need to be done correctly with i's dotted and t's crossed so there are no loopholes to exploit..."

 A video link to the full meeting is provided:

https://www.facebook.com/133857096625209/videos/1792114157466153

In other business, council approved an ordinance allowing serving alcoholic beverages at Sunday brunch in those portions of the city located in Cabell County. 

59% of Cabell County voters approved of the 10 a.m. Sunday sales in Cabell, but 58% of Wayne County voters said no. Alcohol sales in Wayne County will continue to start at 1 p.m. Sundays.

Rebecca Thacker and Tonia Page voted against the ordinance.