Jack Walker Published

Senate Revisits County Commission Vacancy Protocol After Jefferson County Controversy

Jefferson County residents sit in rows of chairs facing long table with members of the Jefferson County Commission behind it.
Residents gather in the Jefferson County Commission room on Thursday, June 1, 2023.
Shepherd Snyder/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On Tuesday, the West Virginia Senate discussed amendments to state protocol for filling county commission vacancies, following a controversy in Jefferson County late last year.

From Sept. 7 to Nov. 31, 2023 two members of the Jefferson County Commission — Jennifer Krouse and Tricia Jackson — refused to attend meetings. This was due to a disagreement over which candidate would fill a vacant seat, and the protocol for how they would be selected.

During this time, they continued to receive pay from their positions on the commission, MetroNews previously reported.

In late November, a judge required the two commissioners to resume attending meetings, but they continued to express concern over the procedure.

Counsel for the Senate Government Organization Committee explained that these events led to the creation of Senate Bill 542, which would update protocol for filling vacant seats on five-person county commissions, like the one in Jefferson County.

Under the bill, five-member commissions unable to agree on an appointee would create a list of eligible candidates and strike names from the list one at a time.

Commissioners would take turns striking names in a predetermined order based on the political party of the vacating commissioner and the tenure of voting commissioners.

Ultimately, the last remaining person on the list would fill the vacant commission seat under the new bill.

The Senate Government Organization Committee voted unanimously to send the bill to the Senate floor with the recommendation that it be passed. Before passage, it will undergo further discussion from the full Senate.