WILLIAMSON - Mingo County Sheriff’s Department was the agency that Sgt. Arthur Farra chose in which to spend his career as a police officer. After having invested eleven years serving the public, Farra was fired by the late-Sheriff Eugene Crum, for “insubordination”, or at least that’s what the official paperwork stated.
After appealing the firing and having Crum’s decision to dismiss the officer upheld by the Sheriff’s Civil Service Board, Farra sought the legal advice of Charleston Attorney Mike Callahan, who with the help of a federal investigation into political corruption that was in full swing in Mingo County, set the wheels in motion for the officer to not only reclaim his position, but to set the record straight with details that may prove shocking to some while making perfect sense to others.
Shortly after the arrest of Private Investigator Don Stevens in the summer of 2012, Sgt. Farra and Deputy Michael Miller began receiving tips of corruption involving Sheriff-Elect Eugene Crum, who was allegedly purchasing prescription pills from Delbarton resident George White, who owned and operated White Signs. The two officers began an investigation that included one late night trip to speak with an inmate incarcerated in the Southwestern Regional Jail about this matter. The news of the visit to the jail beat the officers back to the county, according to Farra, and that’s when things started getting a little uncomfortable.
“Eugene was working at that time as a Drug Enforcement Investigator through the prosecutor’s office,” stated Farra. “He was being primarily assisted by Dave Rockel, who was then serving as Chief of Police for the City of Williamson. When they were told we were conducting an investigation that involved Crum, they did their very best to shut it down.”
“In the fall of last year, before Eugene took the oath of office for Sheriff, I received a phone call telling me that I needed to report to the prosecutor’s office, along with Deputy Miller,” explained Farra. “As we were getting ready to walk through the door, Eugene and Chief Rockel came walking out.”
“Deputy Miller and I were told that a new administration was getting ready to take office and that if we didn’t cease the investigation we were conducting that included alleged crimes of a political official, things could get rough on us quick,” said Farra.
“We gave the information we had about the alleged drug buys to the Feds 14 months ago,” said Farra. “I’m not sure if this aided them in their investigation but I can tell you they for sure received it. This is when the target against me increased in size. False allegations were made against me and Eugene even went to the extreme of saying that he had chalked my tires and knew that I wasn’t out patrolling and doing my job, telling people that he had been following me. He did his best to destroy my reputation and credibility.”
Approximately one month after Crum became sheriff, Farra was fired after being accused of insubordination of a superior officer. According to Farra, that information was completely incorrect and false in nature.
“I had been taken off of road patrol after Eugene became sheriff, which in his eyes, was a punishment and was assigned to the Mingo Central High School. The school system has several in-service days, which means that the teachers and administrators have to attend but the students are given the day off. I spoke with school officials to verify whether they wanted me to work the in-service day that was coming up, and was told no.”
“The evening before the in-service day, I received a call from the secretary at the sheriff’s office who told me I was supposed to work, even though Lt. Randy Hatfield, who did the very same job I did at the Tug Valley High School, did not have to. I contacted the school officials once again and was told my presence was not required, that I was not needed when the students were off.”
“If I had known it was create a problem, I would have requested a personal day. The next day I was called into the sheriff’s office and was told I was fired for refusing to obey a direct order.”
Farra appealed his case and was granted a hearing in front of the Mingo County Civil Service Board for the sheriff’s department, but was denied his request to be reinstated.
“Jeff Cline, a close friend of Sheriff Crum’s and former Judge Michael Thornsbury’s, had been appointed to the board just a few months before this happened and was then voted in as president. I had known Jeff for ten years or so, and Deputy Miller and I had also investigated a domestic complaint involving him probably 2 years or so before my hearing. He had a vengeance against me. I requested that he recuse himself from hearing my case, and he refused, stating under oath that he did not know me.”
“That was a blatant lie.”
“As soon as this occurred I knew the outcome of the hearing would not end in my favor. I seen first hand what political connections and alliances can do to a person’s life.”
For the past 8 months, Sgt. Farra has dedicated all his time into seeing justice prevail in his case and enlisted the help of Attorney Michael Callahan, who is known as being a hard-hitter and a voice for those who have been wronged. When the domino effect began during the federal investigation into political corruption in the county, it didn’t take long for eyes to be opened and opinions to change regarding the fired officer, and for the first time, Farra believed that he might actually receive justice.
Thanks to the dedication of his attorney, a phone call from Prosecutor Michael Sparks who believed Farra may have been unjustly terminated, and the recommendation of reinstatement from the current Sheriff of Mingo County, James Smith, Sgt. Farra is once again wearing a Sheriff’s Department uniform, was rehired at his former rank, was granted payment for attorney fees and received back pay, and is once again, doing what he loves.
“I had a front row seat to watching how from start to finish, from the time a person is arrested, is arraigned in magistrate court and tried in circuit court, they literally own a person…your fate is entirely in their hands and they could do whatever, whenever to whoever they chose,” remarked Farra, speaking of the days when Michael Thornsbury is said to have ruled the county, with the help of the late Sheriff Crum and others.
“That’s a terrible place to be. If I would have appealed the case while Thornsbury was still the Circuit Judge, he would have heard my case and we all know how that would have ended. And if I would have taken it to the Supreme Court, all they would have based their ruling on would have been the transcripts from the civil service hearing. I didn’t stand a chance.”
The remainder of Farra’s story and a more in-depth look into the Civil Service Board hearing will be featured in Wednesday’s edition of the Williamson Daily News.