WEST LIBERTY - Ohio County Sheriff Pat Butler accused former Sheriff Thomas Burgoyne on Wednesday of using the department for his own political purposes when he held the office.
Burgoyne responded that Butler - his former chief deputy - never raised any issues about his conduct when he campaigned to get Butler elected sheriff four years ago.
Burgoyne, the Democratic nominee for sheriff, and Butler, the Republican nominee, took the stage during a political forum at West Liberty University sponsored by the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce.
Photo by Shelley Hanson
Ohio County sheriff candidate Tom Burgoyne, left, listens closely as incumbent Pat Butler speaks during a debate Wednesday.
Burgoyne was serving his second consecutive term and couldn't seek re-election in 2008. He now wants to return to the office.
"The soul is out of that department now, and that's the reason I want to come back," Burgoyne said.
Butler, meanwhile, said the relationship between him and Burgoyne has soured because of politics.
"We were friends for 30 years," Butler said. "This is typical politics. That's all it is. He became upset when I refused to attend a political function - didn't have our deputies attend a political function. We were going in the first place until he turned around and told me he needed as many officers there as possible to get the man elected. ... You shouldn't be wearing your political arm around town and pushing people to vote for this."
Butler added when he was chief deputy, he was called into Burgoyne's office more than once and told he should change his political affiliation.
"I was told it was making him look bad because he was applying for the U.S. marshal's job," he said.
Burgoyne responded that Butler has "always been a good cop."
"Sometimes a good cop doesn't necessarily become a good sheriff," he added. "For that reason, I'm running for sheriff. I received so many outcries from people both in his tax office and the law enforcement office who said, 'Sheriff, we need you to come back here. The morale in our department is terrible.'"
Butler countered that Burgoyne often used his sheriff's department cell phone to make long-distance calls.
"The county is paying for that phone - not Tom Burgoyne," Butler said. "Using money out of the concealed weapons fund to send flowers to a (local news reporter) for the birth of her baby - all that was done to have the media at hand when he was running for U.S. marshal. If you want to send someone flowers, spend the $45 out of your own pocket."
Money from the concealed weapons fund has to be used for law enforcement purposes, Butler continued. He said checked on the matter with the state Ethics Department and learned the statute of limitations has passed.
"You were looking for a prosecutorial opinion on that, were you, Patrick?" Burgoyne asked him. "Where were you telling me this when I was supporting you four years ago when you ran for sheriff?"
Butler said he didn't have access to the sheriff's department financial records then.
Burgoyne said he didn't regret sending the reporter a gift, and he suggested Butler could do more to improve his relationship with the media and the public.
"Pat is a stand-offish person, and he'll admit to being one ... ," Burgoyne said. "You have to have fun with this job when you come to work. ... And based upon the input I'm getting, they're not having fun right now."
Butler said he has had no problem finding new deputies to hire, and he said candidates tell him during interviews that they've heard the Ohio County Sheriff's Department is a great place to work.