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Sheriffs elated Senate nixes nepotism amendment

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) — Local sheriffs are breathing a sigh or relief now that Virginia lawmakers have agreed to eliminate a budget amendment that would have stripped millions of dollars from their budgets.

Last week, a senate finance sub-committee adopted an amendment that would have cut state funding by 10 percent to sheriffs, commonwealth’s attorneys, clerks and other constitutional office holders, who hire family members to work for them.

Senate Finance Chair, Walter Stosch (R) Henrico, says lawmakers were concerned about the unintended consequences of the amendment, and plan to eliminate it if the Virginia Sheriff’s Association agrees to review nepotism policies across the state.

“We’ve agreed to not proceed with the amendment with the understanding that the sheriff’s association will adopt their own ethics standards or policies,” Stosch says.

Stosch believes that it’s fair that constitutional officers should be bound by nepotism policies since they are receiving state funds.

Since taking office in 2005, Richmond City Sheriff C.T. Woody has come under fire for hiring 12 family members to work for him. Woody is not limited by the city’s nepotism policy because he’s an elected constitutional officer.

“You can’t punish all the inmates in a pod just because one makes a mistake,” argues Henrico County Sheriff Michael Wade.

Wade says while cases of potential abuse should be reviewed, he argues several sheriffs across the state have good working relationships with their family members. He also argues that some sheriffs have had family members working for the department prior to becoming sheriff.

“I mean law enforcement runs in people’s families, to not be able to hire a son or daughter to work in an agency if they want to follow in their footsteps is wrong.” Wade argues.

The Virginia Sheriff’s Association says it plans to study the issue over the next year.

“It’s something that needs to be looked out,” says Executive Director John W. Jones, “but we need to take our time and do it right.”

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