Webster County sheriff denies wrongdoing

Thursday, April 15, 2004

MARSHFIELD, Mo. (AP) -- A southwest Missouri sheriff is disputing claims made by the state Attorney General that he should be removed for failure to perform his duties since taking office in 2001.

Webster County Sheriff Ron Worsham said Wednesday that no one from Attorney General Jay Nixon's office questioned him before filing a petition Friday seeking his removal.

"You would think they would want to talk to the person they were investigating," the sheriff said.

The state began investigating Worsham and his department in December after allegations of criminal and ethical misconduct surfaced.

Among other things, Nixon alleges Worsham allowed jailers to transport inmates to private businesses to work without court approval. The sheriff also is accused of allowing a non-commissioned officer to make arrests and traffic stops.

The petition is a civil action and would affect only his current term, which expires this year. Worsham, however, is running for re-election.

"The allegations are wholly without merit," Worsham wrote in a two-page answer to the Webster County Circuit Court, where the petition was filed. "I am confident that no court will find that they justify my removal from office."

Spokesman Scott Holste said Nixon's office will let the warrant speak for itself and allow the issue to play out in the courts without further comment.

Three judges have already recused themselves from the case. A judge will be appointed by either the Missouri Supreme Court or a court administrator, Holste said.

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