Cameras may follow Hawkins’ resignation

PHILIPPI – The Barbour County Commission discussed the possibility of an audit and adding security cameras Monday in the wake of the resignation of former sheriff John Hawkins.

Interim Sheriff Philip G. Ferguson, who was appointed to a 30-day term at a special Commission meeting on Feb. 21, first brought up the discussion of additional cameras within the Barbour County Sheriff’s Department during Monday’s regular Commission meeting.

Ferguson said there should be a camera in the sheriff’s office, the deputies’ offices and the parking lot. He said the two jail cells inside the courthouse already contained cameras.

“It’s sad that we need cameras in our offices,” Ferguson said, “but I think we need to put cameras in there from what has happened.”

Hawkins pleaded guilty to mail fraud in federal court Feb. 20.

Commissioner Phil Hart also brought up the possibility of getting GPS trackers for the police cruisers so that if an officer says he was at a certain place at a certain time, that information can be verified.

“I think that would be a good thing for us too, to at least get a price on it,” Hart said.

After the meeting concluded, Hart told The Inter-Mountain why he thought the measures were necessary.

“I think with all the allegations and the things that have happened in the past, it’s more for the protection of the officers and the clients,” Hart said.

Also during Monday’s meeting, Commission President Tim McDaniel said the Democratic Executive Committee has yet to submit candidates to the Commission to decide who will fill the remainder of Hawkins’ unexpired term.

The new county administrator, Jeff Rogers -who took over after the resignation of Chuck Foley – provided the Commission Monday with the estimated cost for an additional audit that will re-evaluate the public funds that were controlled by Hawkins during his term.

Rogers said the cost would amount to $21,460. He also said the West Virginia State Auditor’s office did not specify a time by which the audit will be completed.

The West Virginia State Auditor’s office returned findings in an audit in September that showed the misappropriation of funds from the concealed weapons fund of the Barbour County Sheriff’s Office. According to the audit, those funds were used in the purchase of flowers, alcohol and gift cards for employees of the Sheriff’s Department.

On Feb. 20, Hawkins pleaded guilty to one felony count of mail fraud before the U.S. Magistrate John S. Kaull in the Elkins office of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia. As part of the plea agreement, Hawkins resigned as sheriff and can no longer work in law enforcement.

The plea stemmed from an incident in which Hawkins staged a motor vehicle accident, ultimately filing a false insurance claim with the assistance of one of his law enforcement officers, whose name has not been released.

Hawkins has been released pending sentencing. A presentence investigation is being conducted. The sentencing date has not yet been set.

In July, teenager Brittany Mae Keene filed a 15-count lawsuit in federal court for the Northern District of West Virginia, alleging Hawkins sexually assaulted her and then threatened to kill her if she told anyone. The suit also accuses Hawkins of sexually assaulting five other unnamed females, referenced only as Females No. 1-5.

Hawkins has repeatedly denied Keene’s allegations, which she first made public in summer 2012.

One week after Keene’s July lawsuit was filed, Barbour County private investigator Franklin D. Streets filed a lawsuit in Barbour County Circuit Court against Hawkins that accuses the former lawman of libel and defamation – accusations stemming from Streets’ investigation of the Keene case.