Elected to Harrison BOE, police officer seeks ethics ruling

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By The Associated Press

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — A former Clarksburg police officer has asked the West Virginia Ethics Commission to determine whether police officers can serve on county school boards.

Michael Daugherty resigned from the Police Department after his election to the Harrison County Board of Education was questioned. Following the May election, the current school board hired an outside attorney, Charles Bailey, and went to court to request a declaratory judgment on the issue, the Exponent Telegram reported.

The board also sought an injunction to bar Daugherty from taking office until the judgment was issued.

Both sides agreed the litigation was unnecessary after Daugherty issued a letter of resignation from the Police Department, effective June 30. He will join the school board on July 1.

Daugherty said he asked the Ethics Commission for an advisory opinion because he is concerned about other officers who might want to run for seats on county boards of education.

“I’m trying to think of every officer in the future. I just want them to have a ruling. No one should have to go through what I’m going through,” he told the newspaper.

He said it was difficult to give up a career in law enforcement. He believes others should not have to do the same.

“It doesn’t change anything for me. I just want to have it on paper for all to see that there’s no problem on [the Ethics Commission’s] end. I’m trying to look out for everybody,” Daugherty said.

Bill Ford, the school board’s attorney, had questioned whether Daugherty’s job as a police officer prohibited him from serving on the nonpartisan board. Ford also had contended that Daugherty could not take an oath to serve on another sovereign body because he had already taken an oath as a police officer.

Daugherty was represented by attorney Jerry Blair through the Fraternal Order of Police. Blair said clarification is needed on what constitutes a public office.

“What is the limitation? Who’s a public officer and who’s not? There are all kinds of problems and questions that need to be resolved,” Blair said. “A lot of people take separate oaths.”

The Ethics Commission does not discuss pending advisory opinions.