Npr books editor petra mayer dies at 46

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A scathing letter authored by deputies addressed khổng lồ their own sheriff và a lawsuit accusing him of sexual harassment have ignited an effort to lớn remove him.

Wood County Commission President David Blair Couch said he expects an update Monday in an investigation into deputies’ claims against Sheriff Steve Stephens. The county deputy sheriffs association described Stephens as a “tyrant” who wielded power like an “oppressive dictator.” Twenty-seven deputies and ex-deputies unanimously voted no confidence in Stephens on Oct. 10 and addressed a two-page letter of grievances to the commission.

Commissioners hired former federal prosecutor và Charleston attorney Booth Goodwin to lớn lead an inquiry, which began Monday. After a week of interviews and fact-finding, Goodwin will lay out details of his probe lớn the commission Monday, Couch said. If Goodwin finds evidence substantial enough, he would help the commission tệp tin a petition with the circuit court, where a judge would appoint a three-judge panel to lớn rule on removal.

Sgt. Della Matheny claims in an Oct. 22 lawsuit that Stephens made inappropriate comments about her appearance, specifically referring lớn how her buttocks appeared in uniformed pants. His remarks progressed into inquiries about her private life & relationship with her now ex-husband, including Facebook messages lớn her partner about her sex life.

Stephens did not return requests for comment. He has yet to lớn publicly address the claims against him.

The sheriff served in the Vienna Police Department for 28 years, including time as chief. He retired in 2010, soon joining the confinement program, where he first worked with Matheny.

She was sworn into the Sheriff’s Office in July 2013, where she quickly rose in rank. When Stephens won election và took over the office in January 2017, she noticed his predatory patterns returned. He targeted newly hired deputy Tasha Hewitt, the suit claims. His harassment intensified over time.

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Stephens told Hewitt her hair looked raggedy after she cut it and began growing it back. He inappropriately touched her, made comments about her buttocks and inserted himself in her thắm thiết relationship with a fellow deputy, according to lớn the suit. Stephens “became irate and maniacally jealous,” the lawsuit says.

At the scene of a fatal house fire, Stephens angrily turned to lớn Matheny và repeatedly called Hewitt a “whore,” according to the suit. He made the same remark at a funeral for a deputy who died of leukemia. Stephens sent Hewitt’s boyfriend, the fellow deputy, on a 16-week assignment lớn the State Police Academy, remarking khổng lồ Matheny and other deputies that he’d made the move “to break up her little family,” according to the suit.

Stephens said he would declined to lớn send Hewitt lớn the academy because “she is a little whore & she would have f--- — all the troopers down there,” the suit reads. Stephens laughed off Matheny’s advice that he apologize to lớn Hewitt.

Hewitt filed a complaint with county commissioners early last year, which led them khổng lồ hire Charleston-based Bailey & Wyant khổng lồ investigate. The firm recommended in March 2020 the commission hire another firm lớn conduct comprehensive sexual harassment & hostile work environment training. The suit says that didn’t happen.

Matheny claims Stephens made insensitive comments behind her back after the investigation concluded. The hostile work environment intensified over the next 16 months, according khổng lồ the suit. Matheny left the force July 23 and sued three months later, claiming the commission continued lớn “subject female employees khổng lồ a dangerous work environment.”

Couch defended the commission’s handling of claims by Matheny, Hewitt và others inside và outside the Sheriff’s Office. He said he couldn’t discuss personnel matters và cited a need lớn separate gossip from truth.

obligations are not only to the citizens of Wood County, the voters of Wood County, but the men và women in law enforcement that work under Sheriff Stevens,” he said.

The procedure lớn remove an elected public official is lengthy, meriting the commission’s actions thus far, Couch said.

“We’ve brought the sheriff in a variety of times to lớn talk at the commission — he’s an elected official, & far be it from us lớn tell an elected official how to run his operations — but it was becoming quite evident that he had a situation,” Couch said. “The more we discover into it, the more we thought that maybe these had risen khổng lồ the màn chơi of removal from office.”

The deputy’s association depicted a “vibrant culture that encompassed teamwork, leadership, professionalism & integrity” at the Sheriff’s Office when Stephens arrived. In five years as sheriff, Stephens “destroyed the positive culture within our organization & developed a culture that can only be described as hostile và negative.” Stephens’ “blistering” rhetoric & “unprofessional & dehumanizing” treatment of county employees led deputies & other staff to resign, retire or pursue jobs elsewhere, deputies wrote.

“We no longer have police officers wanting to lớn lateral to lớn our agency like in the past,” they wrote. “Our agency has some of the best và highly experienced law enforcement officers in the area, và we are in real jeopardy of losing them.”

In late 2019, the state fire marshal honored both Matheny và Hewitt for saving a 6-year-old girl from a house fire.



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