PARKERSBURG - A Wood County man filed a written complaint against Wood County Compliance Officer John Reed.
Meeting with county commissioners Monday, David Jones said he purchased property on Blenn Lake Road at a sheriff's tax sale. Jones said Reed called and asked about his use of the property. When Jones told him he placed a trailer/camper on the property, Reed told him he had to remove the trailer by May 6. Jones said he then contacted adjoining property owners with the intent of possibly selling the property if he wasn't going to be permitted to use it for storage.
Without his knowledge, Jones said Reed tape recorded their conversation regarding his plans, then played the recording to the property owners "which affects my ability to sell the property and what I might receive for the sale." Jones said he has employed an attorney.
Photo by Pamela Brust
Wood County commissioners Wayne Dunn, left, Steve Gainer, center, and Blair Couch, right, review a written complaint filed against Wood County Compliance Officer John Reed.
Reed said he was not informed of the meeting with the commissioners and was not in attendance. Reed serves in a number of capacities for the county, including as compliance officer.
Contacted after the meeting by The Parkersburg News and Sentinel, Reed said he was asked by Wood County Assessor Rich Shaffer to come to his office after a group of residents complained a public right-of-way was being blocked by Jones.
"Based on the information I had at that time, Mr. Jones was putting campers on the right of way. It was a 41-foot piece of property with a 40-foot right of way," Reed said, noting as part of his duties he is to assure clear egress/ingress on public rights of way.
"I went back to my office and called Mr. Jones. I had a pad and pen ready to take notes, my recorder was laying there. To save time, I just decided to tape the conversation instead, it was just easier," Reed said. Following the phone call, he returned to Shaffer's office where he played the tape of what Jones had said for the residents. During the playing of the tape, Jones called one of the residents on a cellphone.
"Instead of hitting the hang up button, he hit talk and Mr. Jones apparently overheard part of the recording," Reed said.
"It was just a conversation I have 100 times a day with people. I told him to remove the camper because it was in a public right of way," Reed said, noting he was not aware of any negotiations or potential sales of property. "I was just doing my job. To me, the recording was just the same as written notes. I would have read the notes to them if I hadn't had the recording."
Reed said he later apologized to Jones.
"I was just using the tape recorder as a convenience rather than taking notes," Reed said. "I was just trying to mediate between the complaining neighbors and Mr. Jones, that's all I was trying to do, and help them reach a reasonable agreement," Reed said.
Jones told the commissioners he initially planned to use the property, which is within sight of his own, as storage for a camper, boat. He said Reed told him if he didn't remove the camper he would be responsible for paying impound and towing fees when it was removed. Jones told the commissioners he didn't think he had a choice after his conversation with Reed, and he contacted adjoining property owners in an effort to sell the land. Jones said he heard his own voice over the cell phone and felt details of his plans for pricing and the amount paid for the property "gives these potential buyers an unfair advantage."
Jones asked the commission to compensate him for "financial losses and intimidation." He asked that Reed "be counseled on his position of trust and abuse of power and be monitored more closely in the future."
Jones also asked the commission for a new policy and regulations regarding "secret" recordings "for the purpose of intimidation and more importantly the playing of said recordings to others parties who potentially have monetary or personal gain from said information."
The commissioners told Jones they would forward his complaint to Prosecutor Jason Wharton.
"We will seek recommendations from him, we apologize to you and we will address this with John Reed," Commissioner Blair Couch told Jones.
"We just hang our heads on this," commission President Wayne Dunn said. "Hopefully we'll get some resolution."