The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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January 12, 2013

Greenbrier County Commission: Robb hired in swimming pool case

LEWISBURG — Former South Charleston Mayor Richard Robb has been retained to represent the Greenbrier County Commission in a court case involving funding of a proposed public swimming pool.

Commissioners voted 2-1 in favor of hiring Robb during a Friday morning emergency session. Commissioner Woody Hanna opposed retaining outside counsel, saying, “Our prosecutor is the most versed in this case and wouldn’t cost us anything.”

Earlier in the week, the commissioners had voted unanimously to seek outside representation rather than have the prosecutor handle their defense against a pool project challenge filed by four Greenbrier County residents.

Commissioner Michael McClung explained at the time that vote was taken that the decision hinged on the fear that the case might be too time-consuming for the prosecutor’s office to handle, as well as the possibility an ethical conflict could arise for Prosecutor Patrick Via due to previous legal work done in preparation for the pool project.

Hanna had agreed to hiring outside counsel only with the stipulation that payment for the lawyer’s services not exceed $1,000.

In voting against Robb’s hiring Friday, Hanna protested, “I’m just really concerned at what this might cost us.”

Hanna also worried about the short time frame the lawyer has to prepare for a Monday hearing in the case, which will apparently proceed as originally scheduled.

Commissioners had said previously that special Judge Charles M. Vickers, who was appointed to hear the mandamus case, would postpone this initial hearing because they were switching attorneys.

The hearing remains on the docket for 1:30 p.m. Monday.

The mandamus case revolves around the source of funding for the proposed reconstruction of aquatic facilities in a building located on the Lewisburg campus of New River Community and Technical College. The commission allocated $1.3 million in hotel-motel tax funds for the project, which those who filed the writ contend is not an allowable use for bed tax revenue because the county does not own the property in which the money is being invested.

The funds have already been transferred to the NRCTC Foundation. The mandamus petition seeks to have that money returned to county coffers.

— E-mail: talvey@register-herald.com

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