MADISON - Former Boone County Schools president Mark Sumpter's life has dramatically changed over the last two years.
In September 2017, Sumpter and another school board member were indicted on charges that they accepted gifts while serving in office from a vendor doing business with the school system.
The three-count indictment stated that Sumpter was accused of accepting two Kelly Charger tires and one Fuzion Touring tire from King's Tire Service, with accompanying services.
Two other school employees were also indicted, convicted and sentenced.
For Sumpter, the case was eventually dismissed and the charges expunged from his record according to court documents. He acknowledges that he could have handled things differently in retrospect, but he says he is no criminal. He wants Boone County citizens to hear his side of the story.
"Originally, I was brought into this to aid the State Police in an investigation regarding two of our employees for embezzlement," he said. "I was more than happy to help with that when it comes to money being stolen from our children."
According to Sumpter, he resigned from Boone County Schools that October and moved to Cabell County after getting married. He said the timing may have seemed peculiar, but the investigation had nothing to do with his resignation.
"The court of public opinion is strong and active, so I definitely thought about that later," he said. "I understand that, too."
Sumpter said the last two years have been difficult on his family.
"It has been hell; I don't know how else to say it," he said. "It has been difficult on my dad, who was a teacher and an educator for over 50 years. My mother passed away before all of this came out and my sister still teaches in the school system. My poor sister had to deal with the whispers in the hallway and seeing it in the papers and on TV news. It broke my heart that Dad didn't want to go hang out with the guys at Tudor's and McDonald's anymore because he didn't want to deal with answering questions about it."
Sumpter said he is still confused by things that were said about him in the process.
"I'm a victim in this because of some of the lies the (former employees) told about me enabled this process to start," he said. "I feel victimized by this whole process."
Sumpter said the tires were acquired for family members on what he thought was a discount offered to school board employees. He said that looking back, he should have followed through in his communications regarding the tires.
"There were a series of things that happened to make this a perfect storm," he said. "The first two events happened during my mother's sickness and I wasn't on my game and I was helping take care of her. I really should have went back and made sure they were paid for by my family members. I was checking on it and there were texts to support that, which the State Police found on my phone."
Sumpter confirmed that he thought the discounted tires had been paid for.
"I went into the State Police detachment, and I never had any legal problems whatsoever and I rolled in and told them everything they needed," he said. "There was immediately a bias that was established. After I was talking and making phone calls trying to track information down, halfway through the conversations I realized I was actually being questioned and later realized I was under the microscope. I ended up going to court about 12 times and maybe the (Boone County) prosecutor (Keith Randolph) needs to take more time in deciding what he's going after - whether it be backpackers, vagrants, drug dealers or spend countless hours on four tires and drag this out for a year and-a-half."
Randolph responded to Sumpter's comments.
"I will not speak to any case that has been expunged as I am not sure what I legally may be able to say," Randolph said. "With that in mind, I respect anyone's right to offer an opinion or criticism. The prosecutor is obligated to handle the criminal business of the state. That responsibility does include drug dealers and (other) criminals. Sometimes, and unfortunately, that also includes elected officials. I have had to prosecute multiple elected and or politically connected people in the past. I may have to do so in the future. Regardless, our office will seek to do justice no matter if that means indicting, convicting, seeking prison, or dismissing charges."
Sumpter spoke of Randolph's previous career in law enforcement.
"It is my understanding that he is a former State Trooper," he said. "You know how the State Troopers are. They're a brotherhood and I understand that completely. They have a very hard job. I think that sometimes in taking care of their family they aren't too fair to other individuals."
Randolph also offered a comment on his service as a West Virginia State Trooper prior to his career in practicing law.
"I am proud of my time serving in such a great organization as the State Police as well as serving next to deputies and city police," he said. "It truly is an honorable occupation. That service in no way prevents me from prosecuting cases from any law enforcement agency."
Sumpter said he has spoken to legal council and is considering his options.
"I have talked to council and I feel we have a strong case about egregious ridiculous things that took place," he said. "The State Police would be number one on the list. It's an uphill battle to sue the State Police but them and the Prosecutor of Boone County have caused me a lot of misery and individuals who spoke untruths that threw gasoline on the fire."
He added that his work life was disrupted as well as his family dynamic.
"I had to work through this and I was concerned of the ramifications of that influencing my new job," he said. "I was physically ill. I couldn't sleep and get help from the doctor to sleep. I think investigators should be more careful about what they say to the press when there is an investigation."
He said the social media backlash was tremendous.
"How quickly people forget what you've done for them and they are throwing you under the school bus before the facts are out," he said. "Well, the facts are out there now."
He said that walking away a free man without a criminal record is liberating.
"There is the initial relief when you walk away," he said. "I've talked to my pastor and friends about a path forward. But, I'm not going to lay down and let it go. I don't want people to forget over time. That isn't good enough for me."
Today, Sumpter has a sales management position with a chemical company. He travels with his work and enjoys what he does.
"I'm thankful every day," he said. "It took some time to get to where I am right now."
Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 304-307-2403.