Honesty In Politics Is An Essential Quality

(04/21/2012)

Dear Editor,

In West Virginia county government, one of the most important jobs is that of sheriff. Law enforcement, collection of taxes, and controlling the county's money are key duties, as well as being a role model to all our citizens, especially our youth. Honesty is an essential quality.

Sadly, in the past few years, sheriffs in some WV counties have been caught up in various crimes such as vote buying, stealing money, etc. In Calhoun County, from 1993 to 1998, I served as County Commissioner with then Sheriff Bill Stemple. I became aware of some shady dealings by him which I tried to make the public aware of, without much success. He had close ties to the owner of the county's only newspaper, who was later his employer for years. Little or no coverage there! The Charleston Gazette covered it some, but very few people in the county read that, and now even fewer people are aware of the happenings then. I refer people to The Charleston Gazette Archives for relevant articles.

Here is a brief review of some of the happenings. Sheriff Stemple came to a Commission meeting in mid 1994 to inform us that he had received two expensive "gifts", a pistol and a GPS device, valued at $900. The "gifts" were from Frank Masiarczyk, who lived in a lavish, secluded mansion near Booger Hole, was well known around the state as the owner of a chain of strip clubs and bars, and who had been convicted of income tax evasion in Florida, a felony offense.

One Commissioner told the Sheriff that people who gave such gifts usually expected something in return, and wondered how an expensive limousine could be parked in front of Masiarczyk's house for months with Florida license on it, and how could Masiarczyk drive so fast without being ticketed. I said the gifts were illegal, which was confirmed by the Prosecuting Attorney. We refused to accept the" gifts" as county property.

In March, 1995, the IRS raided Masiarczyk's house. Masiarczyk was burning "trash" shortly before the raid, causing a brush fire to get out. Masiarczyk's business partner later said the I.R.S. was looking for financial documents. This caused people to speculate that someone had tipped Masiarczyk the raid was coming. Sheriff Stemple accompanied the I.R.S. on the raid.

When the Charleston Gazette began investigating the story, the Sheriff admitted that he had received $900 in cash from Masiarczyk over a two year period, and saw nothing wrong with it. He told the Gazette he couldn't remember if the County Commission had refused to accept the" gifts" and that he had no idea what the Masiarczyk's done for a living. He said he didn't have time to do radar.

At the July, 1995, County Commission meeting, the assessor came to tell us that Masiarczyk was not cooperating with him and he was forced to guess at his personal property. The assessor also wondered how Masiarczyk had got several (he owned 12) vehicle's registrations renewed without paying his personal property taxes and that the workers in the Sheriff s office told him they did not do it.

Eventually the Masiarczyk's were arrested and convicted of hiding millions of income and served several years in prison.

Not long before the Sheriffs term ended, he came to the Commission meeting to ask us to hire a new deputy, whom political rumors had that the man was being positioned to run for the next sheriff-which he did. When I reminded the Sheriff that he had told me not two years before that this man "had failed at everything he had tried", he said he couldn't remember that. I voted against hiring the man but was out-voted, and in not many months he shot and killed a mentally ill woman in the northern part of the county in questionable circumstances. When the new Sheriff came in, this deputy lost his job because he wasn't qualified. Larry Cottrell
County Commissioner 1993-1998