SHADYSIDE - Commissioner Matt Coffland's trial concluded last week with a verdict of not guilty. The commissioner is resuming his campaign for re-election. In a statement to the press, Coffland said when the charge of assaulting a peace officer was brought against him, he would settle for nothing less than complete exoneration.
"I want only to say that I have always promised the citizens of Belmont County that I was innocent of these charges; I pled not guilty to the charges; I refused to enter any plea agreements to lesser offenses as a result of the charge, and asked that my case not be postponed but moved up to before the election, because I trusted a Belmont County jury to determine the truth of these charges, and because I did not want these charges hanging over my head while I am seeking to continue to work for the citizens of Belmont County."
Coffland added that he saw the importance of bringing the issues to light publicly before Election Day.
"It should never have went to trial," he said. "I'm sure some people drew a decision prior to my day in court, good or bad. I fought hard to get it before the election."
The three-day trial occupied the latter half of last week and included testimony from liquor control agents on scene as well as members of the Coffland party who attended Jamboree in the Hills. A felony charge would have cost him his elected position as well as his liquor license.
"While I am happy to put the matter behind me, I am confident that the voters of Belmont County will be equally supportive in my quest for a second term as commissioner. I love serving the people of Belmont County and now, with my recent experience, have even a greater appreciation for protecting and preserving the jobs and livelihood of each and every citizen I have the privilege of representing as your commissioner."
Coffland has since resumed his campaign.
"It's nice to have all that off my shoulders," he said. "It's been very stressful for myself, my family, my friends and supporters."
When asked if he has considered whether his status as the owner of the Tiger Pub might complicate his duties as a commissioner, Coffland said that if elected, he intends to turn all operations over to his son, Matthew Coffland when he renews the establishment's liquor license in January. Matthew Coffland will contract to purchase.
"I will as always put the county first," Coffland said.
Coffland noted that this is a pivotal time for the county, considering the influx of new business relating to oil and gas interests. He asked to be judged on his record as an elected official and added that he hopes the voters continue to find him trustworthy and capable in working toward the future of Belmont County.
"I've fulfilled every focus point I've put on my old list," he said, adding that he has prioritized the development of the county through pursuing issues such as jobs and the infrastructure. He has also worked with county agencies to improve senior services.
Coffland said that throughout his term he has made a practice of traveling the county to observe projects and hear the concerns of residents.
"I'm a very hands-on commissioner," he said. "I never dodge any issue. I work very hard as a county commissioner to put the concerns of the residents first. I ask them to continue to support me and I appreciate their vote."
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