Story by WVMetroNews Correspondent Brad McElhinny
MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The Berkeley County prosecutor and county commissioners have filed petition for the removal of Sheriff Nathan Harmon, contending that he “has breached the public trust and abused his position of power in a number of ways.”
The petition alleges Harmon is “no longer fit to serve as sheriff of Berkeley County.”
The decision on Harmon’s status would go to a three-judge panel.
“This is something where it’s going to be up to a court to make a final determination and what’s been set forth now are just allegations,” Berkeley County Prosecutor Catie Wilkes Delligatti said this morning on “Panhandle Live” on WEPM radio.
In addition to participating in the petition, the Berkeley County Commission passed a resolution reflecting the allegations.
“We knew there was a serious issue that needed to be addressed,” Berkeley County Commission President Jim Whitacre said on “Panhandle Live.”
The allegations are multi-faceted.
“Sheriff Harmon misappropriated public resources for his personal gain, used and removed government property for his personal benefit, and used subordinates for private gain,” the petition states.
“In an attempt to conceal, mislead, deceive, and cover up both his misconduct and the activities of his daughter, Sheriff Harmon obstructed justice by making false statements to a West Virginia State Police investigator, and destroying evidence pertaining to a State Police investigation of the Sheriff’s daughter.”
The incident involving Harmon’s daughter, Carrie, occurred in January and has been a recurring story in local news reports because of the sheriff’s involvement.
Earlier this month, Harmon pleaded not guilty to four misdemeanors alleging the sheriff obstructed an investigation following Carrie Harmon’s vehicle crash and provided false statements to a West Virginia State Trooper who had been tasked with looking into the case as an independent investigator.
The separate petition for Harmon’s removal for office cites those events, but also gets into a range of other activities.
The petition alleges that Harmon directed a deputy to get a publicly-owned GPS tracking device from an area police task force for surveillance of his daughter. The petition states that Carrie Harmon was being tracked when she had the wreck that’s at the center of the misdemeanor charges against Harmon.
After the crash, the petition alleges, Harmon deleted the tracking data to conceal where his daughter had actually been.
Next, the petition alleges that Harmon used his office for personal gain. The petition focuses on his secondary employment at Summit Point Training Facility in Jefferson County. The training facility is a vendor of Berkeley County, and the sheriff has control over contracts. Additionally, the petition states, Harmon would drive his sheriff’s office cruiser to and from Summit Point for his other job.
Furthermore, the petition alleges that in recent weeks the sheriff has significantly restructured assignments and responsibilities of deputies, rewarding those who are personally loyal to him and punishing those who have cooperated with a special counsel’s investigation.
“Additionally, Sheriff Harmon has pressured and intimidated at least one witness to keep potentially incriminating conversations private and implied that silence and loyalty will be beneficial to him both financially and in terms of work assignments,” the petition states.