Board backs sheriff’s push for crime probe funds

WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah County leaders on Tuesday backed the sheriff’s push for $3.4 million in criminal-probe assets despite no ruling yet by a judge.

The Board of Supervisors voted 6-0 on a proposal to make the county a party to an effort by Sheriff Timothy C. Carter to obtain a declaratory judgment in circuit court that would allow the Sheriff’s Office to claim $3.4 million in assets held in eight bank accounts. The accounts were created as part of a criminal investigation.

The board also voted 6-0 to approve a motion to appropriate the $3.4 million as well as part of the funds held in the county’s asset forfeiture account, not yet earmarked for other uses, for the purpose of planning and construction of a new facility to house the Sheriff’s Office.

The county is in the process of designing a new headquarters for the Sheriff’s Office on property in Woodstock just north of the government center.

District 4 Supervisor Cindy Bailey made a motion for each action, seconded by District 5 Supervisor Marsha Shruntz. Other than brief remarks made by Bailey and Chairman Conrad Helsley board members made no comments about the proposals.

County Attorney Jason Ham advised the board that it would need to hold a public hearing to add the $3.4 million to the current fiscal budget. The amount exceeds 1 percent of the budget and, thus, triggers the need for the hearing, Ham explained.

The board did not have to take action Tuesday, Ham noted. Bailey commented on the importance of the board’s action after the vote on the first motion.

“I think it shows a commitment to the use of this money,” Bailey said.

Helsley later questioned the timing of the board’s votes.

“I’m not sure this was the proper day to have done this,” Helsley said.

The sheriff’s attorney filed the motion for declaratory judgment, an affidavit and a motion to seal the documents in the circuit court in August. Judge Dennis L. Hupp granted the motion to seal the documents at the time. Ham spoke with the board in closed session at a meeting in September about the declaratory judgment.

Hupp has not yet ruled on the motion for declaratory judgment. When Hupp plans to take up the sheriff’s request remains uncertain.