The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

December 29, 2012

Prosecutor may wade into dispute


LEWISBURG — The Greenbrier County Commission expects Prosecuting Attorney Patrick Via to wade into the controversy over a proposed public swimming pool.

Barring some unforeseen circumstance, Commissioner Michael McClung said Thursday, Via will defend the commission against a mandamus action filed on behalf of four county residents who are challenging the legality of the pool’s funding.

Attorney Barry Bruce filed the petition for a writ of mandamus last week, asking the court to order the county commission to cease action toward renovation of the long-abandoned pool, which is located in a building on the Lewisburg campus of New River Community and Technical College.

The petition further asks the court to declare the county’s lease agreement with New River to be void and to order the commission to seek the immediate return of $1.3 million in hotel-motel tax funds that has already been released to the NRCTC Foundation for the pool project.

Retired Fayette County Circuit Judge Charles M. Vickers has been appointed to hear the case. Both Greenbrier Circuit judges recused themselves from presiding over the suit.

During a Thursday afternoon continuation of last Wednesday’s special commission session, President Betty Crookshanks reported that she had contacted the county’s risk insurance carrier about the suit, only to be advised that the insurance does not cover either mandamus actions or tax disputes.

For that reason, Crookshanks said, the prosecutor will defend the commission against the mandamus petition. Both she and McClung spoke with Via regarding the situation, Crookshanks said.

McClung said he is not aware of any reason Via could not represent the commission in this matter.

“I don’t see a conflict,” McClung said. “I don’t anticipate any problem.”

Via was not in his office Thursday and did not return telephone messages Friday seeking comment.

In a related matter, the commission appointed a seven-member pool advisory committee. Members are David Nalker, Cheryl Nutter, Joan Montgomery, Ann Fort, Ellen Sullivan, Karen Fankhauser and Miriam Knight.

The commission also appointed Jeff Thomas to the arts and recreation committee and Bill Goodwin to the building commission. Goodwin’s resignation from the airport authority was accepted, leaving a vacancy, while Jeff Kmiec was re-appointed to serve another term with the authority.

With Crookshanks abstaining from the discussion and the vote, Commissioners Karen Lobban and McClung approved appointing the outgoing president to at-large berths on both the airport authority — taking the seat vacated by Goodwin — and the Region 4 Planning and Development Council.

Crookshanks has represented the commission in both of those agencies during her 12-year tenure in office, which ends Dec. 31.

“Anytime I can help, I’ll be glad to,” Crookshanks said, as she closed her final meeting as a Greenbrier County commissioner. “Otherwise, I’ll stay out of the way.”

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