UPDATE: Hinton police chief fired for “job performance”

Summers County

UPDATE 8/21 @ 8 P.M: 

At Tuesday night’s Hinton City Council meeting, Mayor Joe Blankenship announced Hinton Police Chief Derek Seth Snavely is fired because of “job performance,” effective immediately.

Several community members were at the city council meeting, looking for answers as to what’s next for the Hinton Police Department and their chief.

Last week, 59 News broke the story that law enforcement responded to Snavely’s home on July 31 for a domestic incident.  In the end, no charges were filed against Snavely; but as a result of the incident, Hinton City Council granted Chief Snavely with a 28-day vacation leave and he was forced to turn in his service weapon, badge and police cruiser. 

Tuesday night, city council held one of their regular meetings.  During the meeting, council went into executive session for around 20 minutes to discuss “personnel issues.”

When council returned, Hinton’s Mayor Joe Blankenship, who is also Snavely’s father-in-law, read a statement to everyone.  Blankenship openly talked about how the situation was difficult for him because it involved family, at times he became emotional, but at the end he announced city council has agreed to terminate Chief Snavely because of his “job performance.”

“I feel I can’t stand aside any longer concerning this situation. Effective immediately, I’m terminating Derek Snavely’s position as Chief of Police in the city of Hinton because of “job performance” issues, and will be accepting application effective tomorrow,” Mayor Blankenship said. 

Snavely was not at Tuesday’s city council meeting, but several officers with the Hinton Police Department were there. As of right now, Sgt. T. A Withrow is in charge at the Hinton Police department. 

HINTON, WV (WVNS) — A local police chief is on leave for the month of August.  President of Hinton City Council Larry Meador confirmed to 59 News Hinton Police Chief Derek Seth Snavely is on leave with pay.

This comes after Hinton city council members received an incident report from Summers County Deputies stating officers responded to Snavely’s home following a dispute with a family member. 

According to a Summers County Sheriff’s Deputy incident report, on July 30, around 2:50 a.m., a Hinton police officer requested help from a sheriff’s deputy and the two responded to Snavely’s home together. This is after a third party called 911.

The incident report states two off-duty Hinton police officers and Hinton’s Mayor Joe Blankenship, who is Snavely’s father-in-law, also showed up to the scene.

The report states the victim told officers Snavely left the home with a handgun and she feared for her life, as well as others and Snavely’s. Deputies said Snavely did leave the home, but while officers were securing the scene, Snavely reappeared. Shortly after, the Summer’s County Deputy on scene found Snavely’s 9MM Glock and took it.

“This wasn’t his service gun, it was his off-duty carry gun and I still have that gun,” Summers County Sheriff Garry Wheeler said.

Wheeler also confirmed Snavely was drinking the night officers responded to his home. Officers left Snavely’s home around 5:40 Monday morning, around 3 hours after they first responded.

“I feel like we did everything we could possibly do to diffuse the situation,” Sheriff Wheeler said.

On Thursday, August 2, a deputy visited the victim at her work and asked if she was willing to make a statement. She replied no. The deputy also asked the victim to sign a Domestic Violence Information Sheet, but she said no. Sheriff Wheeler said with no signature and no physical evidence of abuse, no charges were filed against Chief Snavely.

“There was no physical contact whatsoever. There was never any signs of that.  My deputy was right near her and he never was. She said there was no physical abuse,” Sheriff Wheeler said.

Summers County Prosecutor Kristin Cook said after reading the incident report, she hand-delivered a letter to 4 of the 5 Hinton City Council members. In the letter, Cook wrote “I am writing to you today to address serious concerns regarding the fitness of Hinton Police Chief D. S. Snavely to serve as a certified law enforcement officer at this time.”

On August 6, Hinton city council received the incident report and called for an emergency meeting. In the meeting, sources confirm council members accepted Snavely’s 28 day paid vacation request. Council also instructed Snavely to turn in his service weapon, badge and police cruiser.

59 News is told Snavely volunteered he will provide council with a certificate of fitness. Sources also said council may require a psychiatric evaluation before Snavely can return to work at the Hinton Police Department.

Snavely is scheduled to return to work on September 3. Sgt. T. A. Withrow is currently in charge at the Hinton Police Department while Snavely is gone.

59 News reached out to city council members to get their response. Hinton’s Mayor Joe Blankenship released the following statement:

“I have no comment on the situation because it involves family. I have removed myself and have turned it over to city council President Larry Meador.”

President Larry Meador also released the following statement:

“Hinton city council responsibilities are to make sure the citizens of Hinton feel safe.  Our police department is working to maintain safety and security while serving the citizens of Hinton.  Transparency is important but with it being a personnel issue, we need to respect the privacy of the employees of the city too.”

Meador confirmed Mayor Blankenship recused himself from the city council meeting that took place on August 6. He also said he believes Mayor Blankenship will recuse himself from future meetings regarding this incident.

Hinton’s next city council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, August 21 at 7 p.m. 59 News will be there and will continue to follow this story.

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