After seeking outside legal guidance to determine whether Beckley Common Council could remove Mayor Emmett Pugh from office, Councilmen-at-Large Tim Berry and Cedric Robertson have recommended that no further action should be taken against the mayor.
Although they have elected not to take action to remove the mayor from office, the two said according to their attorney, they had a right to do so.
Berry and Robertson released a joint statement after meeting with a Charleston attorney, who informed them that “our city charter is not outdated or voided by state law.”
At the last Common Council meeting, some debate was brought up about whether a state law stating that council would not have the legal authority to remove a mayor from office superseded a city charter.
“After reviewing the probable cause finding and the conciliatory agreement, the attorney felt we did have cause to remove the mayor. In fact, after review of our charter, he found we actually have an express duty to bring charges.”
Robertson and Berry explained that the process would entail council bringing forth charges, then voting on removing the mayor from office. If council voted to remove the mayor, he would remain in office until the county prosecutor brought charges. Three circuit court judges would then convene to make the decision.
“It was the opinion of the attorney that the mayor would ultimately be removed. The process would take a minimum of three months, possibly up to 11 months.”
The councilmen-at-large said they considered several factors while making their decision.
“The citizens would bare a high cost in prosecuting the case. The city would suffer more embarrassment. The mayor would also suffer additional embarrassment and substantial cost in legal fees… Since the mayor is leaving in January, it just did not make sense to seek early removal.”