The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

June 21, 2013

Moving ahead

City of Beckley needs to concentrate on the crucial business at hand

The Register-Herald

— Beckley Council members checked their options. But through legal counsel, they decided not to pursue action.

That will save Beckley taxpayers money. But plenty of time was wasted on the last Common Council meeting as members debated Mayor Emmett Pugh’s future, some demanding that he step down immediately.

That’s a couple of hours that they’ll never get back, unfortunately.

The fussing ultimately and undoubtedly led to unnecessary ill feelings and potential bad blood. Drawing battle lines is not a way to operate city government.

With blood in the water, some would-be sharks circled.

It’s ugly, watching politicians scramble for position and power.

And shameful.

All of this could have been avoided by accepting the mayor’s original plan to retire on Dec. 31, instead of members positioning themselves for a power play.

Mayor Pugh has done an admirable job. He has served Beckley for 34 years — as councilman-at-large from 1979 to 1988, and as mayor from 1988 to the present. Much progress has been made in his time in office.

The penalty for any indiscretions by the mayor has been spelled out. He’s stepping down at the end of the year as part of a settlement agreement with the West Virginia Ethics Commission.

Again, it’s important to note that Pugh admits no guilt to the nine ethics violations charged against him. He voluntarily agreed to retire as mayor, as well as pay $7,000 reimbursement for the cost of the investigation. Also in the agreement, Pugh has agreed not to hold public office for five years, beginning Jan. 1, 2014.

A lawsuit to remove him from office immediately would have taken several more months than his announced retirement date.

Getting on with the city’s interests is what is best for the citizens of Beckley.

Our hope is that politicians won’t take this crucial time of transition to campaign for personal gain or prestige — on the city’s dime.

And that they’ll work together with Mayor Pugh to move forward.

Because Beckley’s success is crucial to southern West Virginia.