The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

June 19, 2013

Councilmen recommend no further action against Mayor Pugh

By Wendy Holdren
Register-Herald Reporter

BECKLEY — After seeking outside legal guidance to determine whether or not Council could remove Beckley 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released a joint statement after meeting with a Charleston attorney, who informed them that “our city charter is not outdated or voided by state law.”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up about whether a state law stating that Council would not have the legal authority to remove a mayor from office superseded a city charter.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.”

Councilman Chris Hall said he fully supports the recommendation of the councilmen-at-large.

“While they have communicated that legal counsel advised them that Council had both the ability and standing to act, I agree it is simply not worth further dividing Council or the financial costs involved to push legal action that will take a majority of the Mayor’s remaining time in office to conclude.”