WINFIELD, W.Va. -- Putnam County commissioners made an exception to the county's anti-nepotism policy Tuesday, to allow the daughter of a sheriff's deputy to be hired as a deputy.Sheriff Steve Deweese told commissioners that Heather Valiquette was at the top of a list of recommendations from the Civil Service Commission, which evaluates potential employees based on numerous tests."You can't penalize the most qualified simply because of her father," Deweese said. "It's not based on who you know, but how a person scored."Putnam County's anti-nepotism policy was updated about 10 years ago to allow the hiring of relatives -- just not in the same office.
"The sheriff can hire a deputy's wife to work in the tax office if her husband works in law enforcement," Jennifer Scragg Karr, the county attorney, said as an example.Karr noted the policy is meant to prevent special treatment and said commissioners could revise the policy or make an exception for Valiquette.Commissioner Steve Andes asked Deweese if Valiquette's father would be supervising her or what would happen if her father, Lt. Robert Harrison, one day became sheriff.Karr said it wouldn't matter and pointed out that people who worked together and then married didn't get fired for it.Deweese said he would move Harrison, a 31-year deputy with the road patrol, to staff service -- even though Harrison had asked to stay on road patrol since he plans to retire in about a year."I feel like I have to," Deweese said.Harrison attended the meeting with his daughter and at least a dozen other deputies. He told commissioners he didn't have any political aspirations."I won't have any control over her," Harrison said. "I'm not asking anyone to give her anything -- she's earned it."Commissioners agreed to waive the rule for Valiquette since she had moved from out of state to take the job and been recommended by the Civil Service Commission. They also said they would study the policy further.In 1997, county commissioners decided not to hire Stewart Mynes as a sheriff's deputy, because his father, Frank, was already a deputy. Then-Putnam Sheriff Stan Farley had recommended the younger Mynes for the position, and Mynes scored well on a Civil Service examination.Mynes sued the commission, calling the nepotism policy "overbroad," which resulted in its most recent update.
In other business Tuesday, Deweese told commissioners he was applying for a $50,000 state Juvenile Accountability Block Grant to hire a prevention resource officer at Poca High School.The grant would require the county to match some of any amount awarded. Deweese said if the grant were approved he also would ask the school board to contribute.One officer now splits his time between Buffalo and Poca. Hurricane and Winfield high schools have separate officers.Deweese said so far this school year Poca has had 665 behavioral incidents, which he described as "nondestructive classroom behavior."Reach Kate White at email@example.com or 304-348-1723.