Townspeople ask Mingo Co., WV prosecutor to resign - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Townspeople ask Mingo Co., WV prosecutor to resign

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Several people asked Mingo County Prosecutor Michael Sparks to step down during a regularly-scheduled meeting Wednesday.

It's the latest saga involving the federal investigation of several elected officials in Mingo County.  A federal grand jury indicted Commissioner Dave Baisden and former Circuit Court judge Michael Thornsbury last month.

(Mingo County officials plead not guilty to federal charges.)

"I think that Barnam and Bailey circus oughta make their winter quarters right here," said Michael Baisden, who runs a business in Williamson. "That's what they've been running here."

Michael Baisden is not related to Mingo County Commissioner Dave Baisden.

Taxpayers across the county stood up and lodged complaints with the prosecutor's office; the comments ranged from personal to political. 

A woman named Lois Hall said someone assaulted her relatives, and the prosecutor never properly punished the perpetrator.  Pamela Smith read a prepared statement. She alleges Sparks and other officials refused to help her when she was a victim of identity theft in 2011.

Sparks said he refuses to resign.

"It's a perfect example of the petty factionalism in the political arena that's plagued Mingo County for decades," Sparks said.

In a phone interview Thursday, the prosecutor clarified that Hall's case is currently pending.

In an interview last month, Sparks told 13 News he suspected wrongdoing within the county but never had the evidence to prove it.

(Other Mingo Co. attorneys had suspicions about indicted judge.)

Sparks made a statement at the meeting Wednesday.

"I look forward to telling the whole story and aggressively defending my integrity at the appropriate time," he said. "However, there are greater issues at stake than safeguarding my reputation."

The prosecutor added that he did not enter an immunity agreement with federal investigators, emphasizing that he is cooperating "voluntarily."

Sparks said he also plans to reinstate a deputy who was fired under the late Sheriff Eugene Crum.  Sgt. Arthur Farra was fired in February, and Sparks believe he was let go for illegal reasons. The prosecutor said he will ask commissioners and the new sheriff to re-hire Farra and give him back pay to compensate for the months of unemployment.

(Interim sheriff named in Mingo County, WV following controversy)

The firing of Farra could be linked to the federal indictments unsealed last month, according to Sparks.

Commissioner David Baisden was not present at the meeting. He missed the last meeting in August to appear in federal court.

Commissioner Greg "Hootie" Smith said Baisden has "voluntarily not been participating in the meeting."

Smith said. "I support his decision until legal issues are resolved."

Smith said Baisden is currently performing day-to-day operations with the county work program, overseeing duties such as "picking up garbage," "cutting grass," and "maintenance work."

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