The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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July 10, 2013

Spa City council rejects former mayor’s demand for back pay

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — Unswayed by the threat of yet another lawsuit, city council rejected a demand by former Spa City Mayor Thomas Taylor for back pay he says he is due.

At issue is $800 Taylor says he should have been paid in salary for the four months during which the city fought his legal bid to be reinstated to office.

Taylor submitted a letter of resignation in September 2011 but almost immediately changed his mind and asked to be allowed to resume the mayoral post. Council refused to reinstate him, however, and Taylor filed suit against the city.

A judge ruled that the city had not legally accepted the resignation prior to Taylor’s withdrawal of the document, and ordered his immediate reinstatement Feb. 4, 2012.

“It was almost as if it (the resignation) never happened,” Taylor told council Monday evening.

He pointed out that he was not paid his mayoral salary of $200 a month during the four months it took for the lawsuit to make its way through the court system, and said that means he is owed $800.

Taylor lost a bid for re-election last month. Lloyd Haynes, who previously served as mayor while Taylor pursued the court case, defeated the younger man by more than a 2-to-1 margin in June’s municipal election and took office July 1.

Addressing his successor and council Monday, Taylor said, “I can be paid, and I can go away ... Or we can go back to court.”

He added, “I feel I’m owed.”

Council member G.P. Parker countered by asking if Taylor had repaid White Sulphur for personal bills the state’s Ethics Commission ruled the former mayor had run up on city credit cards. Under the terms of a settlement with the Ethics Commission, Taylor admitted misconduct and agreed to repay the city $223.74 within six months following an Ethics Commission order dated Sept. 6, 2012.

Taylor acknowledged that he still owes a little over $100 in restitution to the city but said his attorney is working on his behalf with the Ethics Commission to resolve the payment issue.

Protesting he didn’t like Taylor’s threat of legal action, Parker nonetheless made a motion to pay the former mayor the $800 demanded, less the amount of restitution still due the city.

Parker’s motion died for lack of a second, and no further action was taken.

A separate but related lawsuit figured into another discussion at Monday evening’s meeting, when Haynes noted that a $12,000 bump in the city’s annual liability insurance premium for the upcoming year is attributable to a settlement reached in a  wrongful termination suit.

That suit was filed against the city by former Police Chief James Hylton in June 2012. He claimed that Taylor violated his human rights. Taylor fired Hylton only hours after being reinstated as mayor in February of last year.

Details of the settlement reached in the case two months ago have not yet been made public.

Taylor was also called upon to explain an invoice for temporary lighting placed at the city’s Rotary Park last summer. True Value billed the city for two sets of lights for the park, but Taylor said when the rental time expired on the first set — which he had authorized — “someone else” obtained the second set to keep the park illuminated for a second month.

The city had already paid the bill for the first, officially authorized set of lights, but officials balked at paying another $1,200 for the second month, when no one admitted ordering the lease contract to continue.

Rather than keep a 2012 invoice on the books, council voted unanimously to pay the $1,200 balance due for the second month’s lighting.

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