WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) —
UPDATE December 14, 2022 4:30 p.m.
Ohio County Deputies and staff amended their lawsuit to add retaliation claims and demand for civil service hearing.
Teresa Toriseva, counsel for the Ohio County Deputies and Staff states, “Sheriff deputies are not permitted by law to strike or collectively bargain. When attempts to amicably resolve pay disputes fail, the only way they can be heard is through a lawsuit. Here, the deputies and civilian employees who support them have tried extensively to resolve all issues first without lawyers, and even then without a lawsuit. Those attempts have failed and the issues have remained unresolved for many months.”
Toriseva goes on to say that the plaintiffs are now forced to take further action for illegal retaliation for the ongoing actions of the county commission in cutting pay and benefits of deputies through a letter that is dated 3-days after the original lawsuit.
Toriseva claims that the situation creates a direct threat to public safety by creating conditions that affect recruitment and retention and that the Ohio County Sheriff’s office is already understaffed and unable to meet its own minimum staffing standards on a regular basis.”
The additional alleged claims from plaintiffs in the lawsuit are in response to the Ohio County Commission’s letter to Sheriff Howard from Randel A. Russell, County Administrator on December 8. The letter stated that it was going to cancel the Highlands extra duty contract, effective December 31, 2022, where the Ohio County Sheriffs received premium pay to patrol the area.
Also the letter stated that the Commission added an additional workload on the Ohio County Sheriff’s Office administrative staff by unilaterally discontinuing certain past practices where the
Commission’s office would administer contracts and collect payment under the contracts.
Additionally in the letter to the Sheriff, the Commission also eliminated overtime, irrespective of hours worked, for special events that deputies were required to work and patrol. These were among the 8 additional counts for the alleged retaliatory conduct taken by the Ohio County Commission against the Plaintiffs following their filing of the Original Complaint.
7News has reached out to the Ohio County Commission Administrator for comment and will update this continuing story.
Three separate lawsuits have been filed in Ohio County alleging missing wages and other complaints involving pay.
Nearly 40 Ohio County employees have filed the lawsuit and have named the Ohio County Commission as the defendant in all three.
7News spoke with attorney Teresa Toriseva Tuesday morning about the lawsuits that were filed Monday.
Toriseva says she was asked to represent the county employees who mostly include sheriff deputies and the civilian employees who support them.
She says some of their complaints include missing at least a week of wages to other missing wages the county has refused to pay for like the appropriate COVID pay rate.
According to Toriseva, the employees were supposed to receive double the time during the pandemic compared to their pre-COVID base rate.
Another complaint by the deputies, she says, is that they were forced to use personal sick leave they earned for work-related reasons.
Some of the work related reasons were rule changes, for example, by the county commission that required deputy sheriffs to not come to work for reasons related to COVID, quarantining reasons, if they had traveled out of town and they needed to quarantine. So, there are a lot of different reasons, but most of them are related to COVID. All of them are related to reasons imposed by the employer and they were forced to use personal sick leave.Teresa Toriseva, Trial Lawyer
Toriseva has spent a large portion of her career representing cases that fight to protect people who work in law enforcement and public safety.
She says the Ohio County Commission has ignored these issues and the plaintiffs felt the lawsuits were the only option left.
Toriseva also says all three trials have been assigned to three separate judges.
Meantime, 7News reached out to the Ohio County Commission, and County Commission Administrator Randy Russell says he is not permitted to talk about the lawsuits.