Berkeley officials agree to rehire deputy acquitted of sexual abuse charges
MARTINSBURG – County officials have agreed to settle a deputy sheriff’s civil suit alleging wrongful termination by not only rehiring him, but also awarding him back pay. After a 13-month hiatus, Perry Shannon Layne is once again a Berkeley County sheriff’s deputy. The Berkeley County Council and Sheriff Kenneth LeMaster on June 6 agreed to bring to a conclusion the writ of mandamus Layne filed in circuit court in September 2011 by agreeing to rehire him retroactive to June 1 and paying him $27,500 “for his embarrassment, inconvenience and emotional distress resulting from the termination of his employment on May 2, 2011.” According to Layne’s writ, on the latter date, LeMaster fired him for insubordination when he asserted his “Garrity rights” by refusing to submit to a polygraph examination in conjunction with an investigation he sexually assaulted a woman on July 31, 2010, while on duty. Immediately after Layne was indicted in October 2010 on two counts of first-degree sexual abuse, LeMaster placed him on paid administrative leave. Layne said he remained steadfast in refusing to submit the polygraph examination that was scheduled for May 10, 2011, after Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Jean Games-Neeley, who was handling the case personally, refused to grant him a waiver of immunity. Following his termination, Layne on May 3 , 2011, requested a pre-disciplinary hearing as required by state law, and affirmed by the state Supreme Court in its 2009 Burgess v. Moore decision. When LeMaster didn’t respond by May 12, Layne made a second hearing request. The next day, LeMaster responded to the second request, setting May 19, 2011, as the hearing date. In his response, LeMaster gave Layne the option to continue the hearing. According to his writ, Layne on May 16, 2011, made a request for a continuance. When LeMaster did not respond, Layne still showed for the previously scheduled May 19, 2011, hearing. However, neither LeMaster nor any of the panel members showed for the hearing. The next day, Layne received a letter from LeMaster’s attorney saying “the Sheriff is under no obligation to have provided a predisciplinary hearing for Deputy Layne. Therefore, the Sheriff declines to provide such a hearing.” Eventually, Layne would go on trial on the sexual abuse charges on Aug. 23, 2011. He was acquitted four days later. In addition to rehiring and awarding him back pay, the Council and LeMaster agreed to pay Lane’s attorney, Eric Black, $9,166. In exchange, Layne agreed that the settlement “does not carry with it any contractual or other promise of employment for any specific period of time or term.” A Democrat and 35-year veteran of the Department, including seven as chief deputy under former Sheriff Randy Smith, LeMaster won his bid for re-election in last month’s general election.