Who can stand up for Joe Citizen?

Apparently not his county commission.

Raleigh County Circuit Judge H.L. Kirkpatrick ruled earlier this week that the Raleigh County Commission must “rubber stamp” an annexation plan put before it by the town of Mabscott.

More than a year ago, the town offered a petition bearing the signatures of nine qualified voters and one freeholder in support of its bid to swallow up a portion of Robert C. Byrd Drive at MacArthur.

Eventually, the petition came under question, and some citizens and businesses hired a Beckley attorney to help them contest the petition.

The commission decided the petition was flawed and sought a declaratory judgment while Mabscott asked the court for a writ of mandamus to force the annexation approval.

Kirkpatrick cited state law that holds a municipality may annex land without an election, simply via an ordinance, and the commission has no recourse but to certify it.

That doesn’t sit well.

We don’t fault the judge, who used a Supreme Court edict in coming to his decision. Indeed, he wrote in his opinion that he knows there are faults “from the beginning to the end” of Mabscott’s petition.

“To have to sign something that is faulty to the core is just unimaginable,” but added that the Legislature has “relegated the authority of the commission in this instance to that of rubber stampers who can exercise no discretionary or quasi-judicial functions relative to the petition in question.”

It would seem, then, that it falls to lawmakers to scrutinize this condition with an eye toward change.

It seems patently unfair that the county’s ruling body must sign off on a plan it believes is flawed and one that a goodly number of citizens whom it will affect have said they do not want.

Commission president John Aliff is upset that the commission can act in no other way except “merely mechanical” in the face of such petitions. He has vowed to continue to fight Mabscott and said the commission probably will take the matter to the state Supreme Court.

We don’t believe that the commission should have to serve as a rubber stamp — whether the issue is Mabscott wanting to annex MacArthur, Sophia taking in Stotesbury or Beckley looking to swallow up Beaver.

Commissions should have the power to forestall such actions, especially if a plan has obvious flaws.

The Legislature should take notice and fix what appears to be a large hole in authority of the county’s overseers.


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