Ferguson named Barbour Sheriff

PHILIPPI – Meeting in special session Saturday, the Barbour County Commission not only chose a new sheriff to lead the Barbour County Sheriff’s Department, but also selected an interim director to lead the county E-911 Center.

Both positions were left vacant when the individuals who served in those roles resigned for different reasons. The new sheriff, Philip Ferguson, will serve until the county residents elect a sheriff in November. Ferguson said his name will be on that November ballot.

“I’m ready to go forward and get the county back on track,” Ferguson said. “Let the county heal from what has taken court. Let us go from here and build the community back up.”

Ferguson said he wanted to improve upon the department’s relationship with the city and state police departments. Commission President Tim McDaniel said that Ferguson was the senior officer of the Sheriff’s Department and that all of the county commissioners believed he was a good person for the job.

McDaniel also said that Doyle Cutright II was chosen to serve as the interim director of the 911 center based partly on his qualifications. Before he can be named the director, he must serve a probational period as the interim director for 6 months, the commissioners said. After that time period, the commission will decide whether to remove his interim title and make him the director.

Cutright did not attend the special meeting, but gave a statement Sunday.

“I’m very excited about the appointment and I just look forward to working with the commission and Jim Ancell, the OEM (office of emergency management) director,” Cutright said.

The 911 director position became vacant when Cindy Hart, now the Randolph County E- 911 director, resigned last week, commissioners said.

Ferguson served a temporary term as interim sheriff after former sheriff John Hawkins resigned as part of a plea agreement in a federal court case on Feb. 20. Hawkins pleaded guilty then to a felony count of mail fraud in federal court in Elkins. The plea agreement does not allow Hawkins to continue working in law enforcement.

Hawkins’ plea followed an incident in which he 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 since been released pending sentencing. A presentence investigation is underway. The sentencing date has not yet been set.

However, that federal charge is not the only legal issue Hawkins is facing. In July 2013, 20-year-old Brittany Mae Keene, of Moatsville, 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 accuses Hawkins of sexually assaulting five other unnamed females, referenced as Females No. 1-5.

The allegations were made public in the summer of 2012, and they were repeatedly denied by Hawkins.

Shortly after Keene’s lawsuit was filed, Barbour County private investigator Franklin D. Streets filed a lawsuit in Barbour County Circuit Court a week later against Hawkins. It accuses Hawkins of libel and defamation in relation to Streets’ investigation of the Keene case.

The West Virginia State Auditor’s office also 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, although no charges on the matter were filed.

According to the audit, those funds were used in the purchase of flowers, alcohol and gift cards for employees of the Sheriff’s Department.

Another audit has been requested by the Barbour County Commission following Hawkins’ resignation and is currently underway.