Former Mason deputy's wrongful termination case dismissed from Kanawha court

By Lawrence Smith | Feb 22, 2013

CHARLESTON – A former Mason County Sheriff’s deputy will no longer be allowed to carry a badge and gun, and will have to make his case for wrongful termination before a judge in that county.

Last year, Eric J. Lynch received decisions in separate civil actions he filed in Kanawha Circuit Court. One was an appeal of the state Law Enforcement Professional Standards Subcommittee’s revocation of his law enforcement certification, and the other a claim against both the Mason County Sheriff’s Department and the County Commission for both wrongful termination, and racial discrimination.

Judge James C. Stucky on May 4 upheld LEPSS’ decision. In his ruling, Stucky said Lynch’s decision to plead guilty to charges he fraudulent used a county-issued gas card worked against him.

“[Lynch]’s plea of guilty concerned a pattern of conduct involving public funds over a 13-month period,” Stucky said in his ruling.

“As a result, it is reasonable to conclude [his] offense involved a pattern of dishonest conduct unbecoming a law enforcement officer.”

According to court records, then-Sheriff David Anthony II on March 10, 2010, placed Lynch on suspension pending the outcome of an investigation over misuse of his department-issued gas card. The investigation, conducted by then Chief Deputy Jeff 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.

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 the disputed purchases, Lynch was indicted by the grand jury on one count of fraudulent scheme, a felony, and one count of fraudulent use of a credit card, a misdemeanor. In December 2010, in exchange for pleading guilty to the fraudulent use of a credit card, then-Mason County Prosecutor Damon Morgan agreed to dismiss the fraudulent scheme charge.

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

Citing his guilty plea to “acts of dishonesty,” LEPPS the following July voted to revoke Lynch’s certification.

Records show Lynch did not appeal Stucky’s ruling to the state Supreme Court.

In his wrongful termination suit filed pro se on March 12, Lynch said his father’s death was not the real reason for his resignation. Instead, he alleged he “was forced to resign my position based upon Racial Prejudice.”

No other details, expect the dates of his employment, were provided in his suit. Along with MCSD and the Commission, Lynch named Anthony and Fields as co-defendants.

Six days before filing his suit, Anthony resigned as sheriff as part of plea agreement with the Mason County Prosecutor’s Office. In January 2012, the grand jury returned a 42-count indictment against Anthony that included 38 fraud-related charges for using his state-issued purchase card for a personal trip to Orlando, Fla., in 2011.

In exchange for pleading no contest to two misdemeanor embezzlement charges, guilty to two misdemeanor firearms-related charges, resigning as sheriff, withdrawing his candidacy for re-election and publically apologizing for allegations he made that other county officials misused their purchase cards, Morgan agreed to drop the remaining charges. Nibert later sentenced him to two years in jail.

In response to Lynch’s suit, MCSD and the commission asked that it be dismissed on the grounds he not only failed to make a valid claims of either discrimination or wrongful termination against them, but also it was filed with the wrong court. Judge Charles E. King, Jr. on Dec. 12 granted their motion to dismiss on the grounds Kanawha County was the wrong venue.

Since King’s order was without prejudice, Lynch can re-file his suit in Mason Circuit Court. As of presstime, Lynch had yet to do that.

According to court records, Lynch in 2002 also accused officials in Chesapeake of using race as a factor to fire him. Though he was first suspended, then fired for “various acts of misconduct,” Lynch maintained “White police officers… committed acts of misconduct similar in severity to those allegedly committed by [him], but received no reprimand or disciplinary action.”

Along with the town, Lynch named Mayor Damron Bradshaw and former police chiefs Paris Workman and Eugene Ranson as co-defendants. The case was dismissed on Aug. 16, 2004, after the sides announced they reached a settlement.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the West Virginia Record, Bradshaw disclosed the town, through its insurance carrier, paid Lynch $10,000.

Kanawha Circuit Court, case numbers 02-C-1535, 12-AA-4 and 12-C-463

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