Wood County deputies make vote of no confidence in Sheriff Stephens

PARKERSBURG — A number of Wood County Deputy Sheriffs have made a vote of no confidence in the leadership of Wood County Sheriff Steve Stephens.

In a letter supplied to The Parkersburg News and Sentinel as well as delivered to the home of Wood County Administrator Marty Seufer by a deputy, the Wood County Deputy Sheriff’s Association met Oct. 10, and with 27 active members voting, the unanimous decision was made to draft a letter to the Wood County Commission stating they could no longer support Stephens in his role as sheriff.

Wood County Deputy Sheriff’s Association letter to Sheriff Stephens Letter

In the letter, many of the comments were made directly to Stephens with the letter stating members were compelled to act in response to Stephens’ leadership.

“You have been our Sheriff for five years,” the letter stated. “During this time, you have destroyed the positive culture within our organization and developed a culture that can only be described as hostile and negative.

“We can best define you as a Tyrant.”

The letter stated the sheriff exercised his power like “an oppressive dictator” with deputies and supervisors frustrated and saddened by his lack of leadership and professionalism.

“The atmosphere in the office can only be described as depressing, stressful and plagued with heavy negativity,” the letter said. “The unprofessional and dehumanizing method in which you treat personnel at our Sheriff’s Office has continued and become increasingly worse to the point that several tenured members of our agency and other staff have recently retired, resigned or are seeking other employment earlier than they wanted.”

The letter said the staff in the office “have had to endure tirades and fits of anger” the sheriff has allegedly displayed.

The letter makes the allegation that actions the sheriff took with a barricaded suspect placed his safety and the safety of the deputies at risk. A cover letter mentioned “ongoing allegations that cannot be legally discussed at this time” in relation to the association taking the vote not to support Stephens as sheriff.

The letter said posts the sheriff makes on Facebook are often self-promoting and written to show Stephens as caring about the community.

“This is a complete farce; you in no way behave in that manner with your deputies or staff,” the letter said adding the deputies feel the sheriff takes credit for the hard work other people in the agency have done.

“We feel that those accomplishments are achieved despite your leadership, not because of your leadership,” the letter said.

The Wood County DSA feels Stephens does not hold himself to the same standard of accountability he would for a deputy. The letter alleges the sheriff has failed to live up to standards such as rules of conduct, ethics, the oath of office and other guiding principles.

The letter said a copy is being sent to the Wood County Commission with the request that action be taken in this matter.

“To be clear, we will continue to serve our community in the best way we can with the resources we have,” the letter said. “We will continue to hold ourselves and each other to a high standard of conduct and professionalism.

“We will provide the service we believe each person deserves when they call upon us.”

County officials said the department had 35 deputies.

Wood County Commission President Blair Couch said he has seen the letter and had no comment to make at this time. He said it might be discussed during Thursday’s commission meeting.

Stephens also has seen the letter and had no comment on it. He said he didn’t know if it was something that needs to be discussed with the commission.

A phone number on the letter for the association rang to a desk at the sheriff’s department and a message left about whether the DSA has legal representation was not returned.

The matter is not on Thursday’s commission agenda for action, but the commission has an open door policy where people can come and talk to them on a wide variety of issues. The agenda only includes matters the commission will take immediate action on.


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