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Special prosecutor could cost Kanawha tens of thousands of dollars

Kanawha’s chief special prosecutor is expected to cost the county tens of thousands of dollars in the wake of the controversy surrounding Prosecutor Mark Plants.

Tuesday morning, the county commission approved a compensation rate of $200 per hour for Don Morris, who was appointed to the chief special prosecutor position by Judge Duke Bloom on April 24.

To ensure it can cover the expense of Morris, the county will move $100,000 from its stabilization or “rainy day” fund to its contracted services fund.

County Manager Jennifer Sayre said the contracted services fund currently has $30,000, which Commission President Kent Carper estimated would only last for a few weeks.

“Our responsibility is to see to it that the office continues to function,” Carper said.

Bloom’s order specified that Morris must be paid a “reasonable amount” set by the county commission.

“The rate is commensurate with his ability and his experience,” Commissioner Dave Hardy said.

Hardy said the “market rate” for lawyers just out of law school in Charleston is between $150 and $175 per hour. He also said Morris still has duties related to his private law practice.

“The work of the office needs to proceed and it’s very important work,” Hardy said.

Morris was appointed to chief special prosecutor along with Rocky Holmes, Adam Petry and Amy Bird as assistant prosecutors. The assistant special prosecutors were already “co-employees of the county commission who handle similar matters at the Kanawha prosecutor’s office,” and thus will be paid at the same rate, though they will report to Morris and not Plants.

The special prosecutors were appointed after Bloom disqualified Plants and his office from “prosecuting crimes of violence by a parent, guardian or custodian against a child, abuse and neglect cases and criminal violations of domestic violence protection orders,” the Daily Mail previously reported.

Plants is facing charges of domestic battery and violating a domestic violence protective order. He is accused of using excessive force while whipping his 11-year-old son with a belt, causing a large bruise, and then later violating a protective order by having contact with his sons.

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