Former Mason deputy challenging certification revocation, termination

CHARLESTON – In the midst of appealing the revocation of his law enforcement certification, a former Mason County Sheriff's deputy is alleging his departure from the Department was racially motivated.

The Mason County Sheriff's Department, the Mason County Commission, former Sheriff David Anthony II and former Chief Deputy Jeff Fields are named as co-defendants in a wrongful termination suit filed by Eric J. Lynch. In his complaint filed March 12 in Kanawha Circuit Court, Lynch, 48, of Nitro, alleges he "was forced to resign my position based upon Racial Prejudice."

The suit gives no other details except he was employed as a deputy sheriff from June 2006 until March 2010."

According to a collateral civil action, Anthony on March 10, 2010 placed Lynch on suspension pending the outcome of investigation he misused his Department-issued gas card. The investigation, conducted by Fields at the request of County Administrator John Gerlach, discovered Lynch made unauthorized purchases of fuel totaling $4,572.37 between January 2009 and February 2010.

In at least on instance, Lynch was seen on one station's video surveillance camera "putting gas into another person's vehicle not a county owned vehicle and paying the gas with the county gas card on 18 January 2010 at 0315."

Two days after he received notice of his suspension, Lynch resigned. In his resignation letter, Lynch stated it was "effective immediately due to urgent family matters surrounding the death of my father on 02-10-10."

Despite his resignation and making full restitution to the county six months later for disputed purchases, Lynch was indicted by the grand jury one count fraudulent scheme, a felony, and one count fraudulent use of a credit card, a misdemeanor. In December 2010, in exchange for pleading guilty to the fraudulent use of a credit card, Mason County Prosecutor Damon Morgan agreed to dismiss the fraudulent scheme charge.

Records show, Judge David W. Nibert fined Lynch $2,500.

As a result of the guilty plea, the state Law Enforcement Professional Standards Subcommittee on July 30 voted to revoke Lynch's certification as result of "acts of dishonesty." Following two internal appeals that upheld LEPSS' ruling, Lynch appealed the decision to circuit court on Jan. 9.

In his appeal, Lynch argues the revocation of his certification was harsh in light of LEPSS allowing at least one former Charleston Police officer, Eric Eagle, to keep his certification following his conviction in October 2007 to obtaining money by false pretenses.

Eagle was one of several CPD officers who entered guilty pleas following an investigation that found they double-dipped by working on the clock as both an officer, and a security guard at the Charleston Town Center.

Following his conviction, Eagle became chief of police in Pratt.

Also, Lynch pointed to LEPSS allowing another former CPD officer, Brandon Tagayun, to keep his certification following his conviction in 2007 on charges of speeding and operating an emergency vehicle without lights or sirens that stemmed from a collision he had two years earlier with a vehicle operated by Patsy Sizemore, who was ejected, and died instantly from head injuries. The city later paid Sizemore's estate $1.8 million to settle a collateral wrongful death suit filed against it, and Tagayun.

After serving a year of supervised probation, Tagayun was hired as a police officer in St. Albans.

Furthermore, Lynch maintains Fields' "investigation into the misuse of the gas card was at best, incomplete and at worst inaccurate." He avers that Anthony gave him "permission to use the gas cards in the manner that he did."

The incident where we was caught on tape putting gas into someone else's car, Lynch says, was were he forgot his duty weapon, and had his son drive back to his home in Cross Lanes to get it for him. After doing so, Lynch says he "reported it to Anthony who told him to take the cash equivalent to the County Clerk and reimburse the amount to the County, which he did."

Earlier this month, Anthony resigned as sheriff as part of plea agreement with the Mason County Prosecutor's Office. In January, the grand jury returned a 42-count indictment against Anthony that included 38 fraud-related charges for using his state issued purchase card toward purchases for a trip to Orlando, Fla. last year.

In exchange for not only his resignation, but also his agreement to withdraw his candidacy for re-election, surrender his law enforcement certification, issue a formal apology to other county officials for statements he made they, too, misused the purchase card, enter a plea no contest to two of the embezzlement counts and of guilty to counts of brandishing and shooting near a dwelling in the indictment, all misdemeanors, Morgan agreed to dismiss the remaining charges.

The shooting near a dwelling and brandishing counts stemmed from where Anthony on Nov. 5 while drunk, and in the presence of two of his deputies shot over the head of his son, Dawson, as he was exiting the rear of their home. Following his release on bond on Nov. 11, Anthony was ordered into rehabilitation for the next 90 days.

Upon his return, he relieved Fields as chief deputy and appointed Deputy Rob Wilson in his place. However, Wilson in February not only resigned as chief deputy, but also from the Department citing being "asked to do in things my scope of duties I was not comfortable doing."

In the appeal of his law enforcement certification revocation, Lynch is represented by Charleston attorney Rick Holroyd. The case is assigned to Judge James C. Stucky.

The wrongful termination suit is assigned to Judge Charles E. King Jr.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 12-AA-4 (Lynch credentials appeal) and 12-C-463 (Lynch wrongful termination)

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