MCSD Sgt. Farra talks about appeal hearing (Editor’s Note: This is the final article in a two-part series)

Rachel Baldwin rbaldwin@civitasmedia.com

November 6, 2013

WILLIAMSON - Mingo County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Arthur Farra is once again, working in the job that he loves. The last eight months of his life, however; were anything but happy times. Farra’s days were spent building his case for an appeal in hopes of being reinstated in a position that he feels he should never have been removed from.

“I definitely had a bulls-eye on my back,” stated Farra, speaking of the way he was treated and the actions that were taken against him by Eugene Crum, the former sheriff of Mingo County who was shot and killed on April 3rd of this year.

“The sheriff had became aware that another deputy and I were conducting an investigation into accusations that he was buying prescription pain pills from a Delbarton drug dealer, and was bent and determined to get me out of the sheriff’s department and put a stop to our actions.”

According to Farra, Crum is accused of doing everything that he could to discredit his ability to perform his job, even to the point of claiming to have followed the officer and “chalked his tires” to see if he was conducting road patrols and answering calls. But these happenings, according to Farra, are nothing compared to what took place next.

According to information Farra became privy to that is also said to be common knowledge with the FBI, a close friend and ally of Thornsbury’s and Crum’s who served in the past in a county position, supposedly approached an employee in the sheriff’s office who was at that time, serving under former Sheriff Lonnie Hannah, and told them that if they agreed to assist in firing Farra and two other officers they would remain employed after Sheriff-elect Crum took office the first of January, 2013. The employee refused to participate in the scheme.

James Smith was recently appointed as Sheriff and said that he had been told the same information, and feels that the other two employees Crum wanted gone were Lt. Joey Farris and Deputy Mike Miller. The officers had not supported him in his bid for office and were investigating the alleged drug buys Crum was said to have been involved in.

In February, one month after Crum took office, allegations of “insubordination” were made against Farra, and he was terminated as an officer of the Mingo County Sheriff’s Department. Following protocol, the officer filed a request for a hearing before the Mingo County Sheriff’s Civil Service Board to fight for his job, but says that plans had been put into motion before Sheriff Crum took office by Michael Thornsbury, the former Circuit Judge of the county, to “stack the deck” in their favor with the appointment of his close friend, Jeff Cline to the board. Cline was selected to serve as President of the Board within a mere few weeks of assuming the vacant position.

“The appeal hearing was completely controlled by Jeff Cline,” remarked Farra. “He allowed the sheriff and those called to testify against me to say and do whatever they wanted, while stifling my comments and those of the individuals there on my behalf.”

“As soon as I heard Jeff lie under oath and say that he did not know me and refused to recuse himself from hearing the case, I know exactly where it was heading, I knew I was in a bad place.”

Farra explained to the Williamson Daily News that he had been acquainted with Cline for 10 years or so before the hearing occurred and had furthermore, been involved in a criminal case against Cline in which he was accused of domestic battery. The officer felt that this fact alone constituted a recusal, since Cline had not went to any trouble to hide his dislike for him.

Throughout the hearing, Crum maintained that the firing was not an act of retaliation against Farra, but a result of the officer’s refusal to comply with orders. The sheriff’s decision was upheld, and Farra then began the difficult task of proving that he was not in the wrong and deserved to keep his job.

After the federal investigation into political corruption resulted in the arrest and indictment of Thornsbury and others in late summer, people began taking a renewed interest in Farra’s case. His attorney, Mike Callahan, pushed for the case to be heard again. That was not needed, however, after Michael Sparks, who was then serving as Mingo’s Prosecuting Attorney, contacted Callahan and relayed that he felt Farra had been treated unjustly and was wrongfully terminated, and recommended that he be rehired.

Farra was reinstated to his former rank, received back pay and had his legal fees paid. His hope is that no other officer will ever have to go through what he did, and says it has changed the way he views the legal system.

“No one should be at the mercy of people in a position that hold the power to change the course of someone’s life, simply because they harbor ill feelings toward them or view them as a threat,” commented Farra. “I’m thankful that justice finally prevailed, and I’m glad to be back at work. I want to thank all those that supported me in my efforts, especially Sheriff Smith and the guys in our department.”

“It’s been a long eight months, and I’m very glad to put it behind me.”