Rachel Baldwin Civitas News Service
September 5, 2013
WILLIAMSON — “I stand here today as a Mingo County tax payer with a request for our prosecuting attorney, who is the chief law enforcement officer in this county to step down from office,” said local business owner, Mike Baisden.
“Resign from office while you are under investigation.”
This sentiment was shared by several others in attendance at Wednesday’s regularly scheduled County Commission meeting who spoke of circumstances and situations they have personally faced that included on some level, involvement with C. Michael Sparks, the Prosecuting Attorney.
Pamela Cagigas Smith read a prepared statement to those in attendance concerning a 2011 case of identity theft that she and her husband experienced, commenting about the lack of help and support she received from officials within Mingo County, as well as many on the state level. An in-depth article concerning the Smith’s ordeal will be featured in an upcoming edition of the Williamson Daily News.
Lois Hall and Lois Wolford, who both reside at Emory Lane on Buffalo Mountain, stated they felt they were recently treated unfairly by law enforcement members as well as the prosecutor. Hall said that she had a situation with a family member that resulted in her elderly husband being beat and pushed over a hill, and she experienced the same fate. Wolford had a dog that was killed and claimed to have received no justice from the prosecutor or the police.
“We’ve also complained and complained about the drug activity going on with our neighbors,” stated Wolford. “They’re making trip after trip to Ohio and bringing back drugs to sell but no one pays any attention to what we say, no one cares. They will prosecute good people over piddly little things but not for crimes that are as serious as drugs.”
“If we turn up missing after this, you can bet it’s because of the drug dealers, not because we’ve hung ourselves in our basement.”
“I love West Virginia,” remarked Hall, “but I sure don’t love Mingo County.”
Della Cline Gentile, a local attorney who represented Mingo County Magistrate Dee Sidebottom in an ethics complaint case that was filed by the prosecutor, addressed the commission with her feelings regarding the situation.
“Mr. Sparks filed an ethics complaint against my client that was dismissed because there were no grounds to support it, and the final ruling stated that the complaint should never have been filed.”
“Mr. Sparks stated that he had been led astray,” remarked the attorney. “His actions resulted in my client’s life hanging in the balance for several months while she awaited the ruling. Now – Mr. Sparks is
under investigation by the WV Bar Association and the State Office of Disciplinary Council for his actions.”
“All of the false allegations that were made against Ms. Sidebottom were released to the media, but her response that contained the truth supposedly disappeared shortly after it was received. I’ve requested a copy, others have done the same, but it’s nowhere to be found and no one can explain why.”
Cline-Gentile also commented on the numerous cases she has become aware of where the victims of crimes were not notified by the court (as required by law) as to when the hearings would take place, and this resulted in the charges being dismissed in some of these cases. Other victims, according to the concerned attorney, were not consulted before a plea agreement was offered to the defendant by the prosecutor’s office.
“How many assistants do you have working for you Michael,” questioned Cline-Gentile. “There’s at least six or seven of them that I know of, and you only want to hire attorneys that you can intimidate to do your bidding.”
You wanted a job as an assistant prosecutor,” replied Sparks. “You wanted to work for Judge Thornsbury.”
“That was before I knew he was a criminal,” stated Cline-Gentile. “It was before I knew the truth.”
“What kind of circus are you running in your office, Mr. Sparks?” asked Mike Baisden. “I think that the Ringley Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus needs to set up their winter headquarters in Mingo County, they would fit right in.”
Commissioner Smith stated that the attorneys who were present are well aware that if there is a belief and evidence that an elected official has committed wrong doing, the proper route to follow is to file an ouster suit against that person, but stated that he would not participate in one.
“Are you under investigation Commissioner Smith?” asked Cline-Gentile. “No, I am not,” replied Smith. Cline-Gentile then asked Smith if he had an attorney, to which he answered “yes”. “Well, if you’ve done nothing wrong – why do you need an attorney?” he was asked.
“I have no intention of stepping down,” said Smith. “I stand on my record.”
“All of Team Mingo needs to step down until this investigation is concluded,” said Quinn Deskins of Kermit.
Mike Baisden had a final comment to share before the meeting was called to an end.
“As a tax payer and a citizen that votes in this county, I call on Mr. Sparks to resign temporarily until the Bar Association and the Disciplinary Counsel issues a ruling on his case. I want to share a quote with everyone here today that I learned from my dad, and then I’m going to leave.”
“With a fair man – be fair; with an honest man – be honest; but with a tyrant, show no mercy.”