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WESTOVER, W.Va. – The city of Westover is working through two federal civil rights lawsuits. Now, a former employee has filed a whistle blower lawsuit in Monongalia County Circuit Court for wrongful termination.
Christine Riley was the administrative assistant at the police department when she and ten other officers wrote a letter to mayor Dave Johnson with concerns about Aaron Dalton. Riley was terminated after the letter was sent to Johnson.
Mayor Dave Johnson released the following statement:
Because this complaint is the subject of Court proceedings, the City has no comment on the specific allegations made by the Plaintiff. However, we are confident that the litigation will conclude that the City acted appropriately and lawfully with respect to Ms. Riley.
Mayor Dave Johnson
The letter signed by Riley and the officers alleges Dalton violated civil rights, threatened to kill other officers, was involved in sexual misconduct, caused division in the department, refused to follow orders and falsified paperwork.
The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorney fees and costs.
ALBRIGHT, W. Va. – The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is reporting a blowout from the former T&T Mine Complex that is discharging into the confluence of Muddy Creek and the Cheat River in Preston County.
Large amounts of highly acidic water, 10 times that of normal concentrations, and sediment is discharging from the former mine and has caused acid levels in Muddy Creek and the Cheat River to spike. The flow peaked at 6,200 gallons per minute Thursday afternoon, but has since dropped to 3,500 gallons per minute.
The incident has since been reported to the agency’s spill line.
Thursday’s event overwhelmed the WVDEP’s T&T Treatment Facility causing a pipeline entering a manhole to rupture. An estimated 300-500 gallons per minute was not going into the treatment facility.
Staff from the WVDEP’s Office of Special Reclamation are on site.
“The flow has to decrease to where we can shut off the valves that regulate the water out of the T&T mine,” said the WVDEP’s Acting Communications Director Terry Fletcher. “This would cause water to build up in the mine and allow our staff time to make repairs at the manhole and better assess the situation.”
Similar events have happened on three occasions since the initial blowouts at the T&T mine in 1994 and 1995, which overwhelmed previous AMD treatment systems. These events prompted the WVDEP to install the new, innovative T&T Treatment Facility, which treats up to 6 million gallons of AMD per day.
The cause of the blowout has not been determined. There is speculation that periodic roof collapses within the T&T mine is displacing large volumes of highly acidic water at one time, but the agency has not been able to confirm this. Additionally, significant amounts of rainfall in recent days likely increased the volume of water in the mine and contributed to the current situation.
FAIRMONT, W.Va. – Fairmont State University students, Peydan McVickers and Kiersten Lowdermilk, have been selected to participate in the 18th Annual Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol. Student participants will virtually present to members of the West Virginia State Legislature and Executive Branch today.
Peydan McVickers, senior forensic science major with a chemistry minor from Farmington, WV, has submitted an abstract highlighting the development and composting of cellulose-based bioplastic derived from hemp fibers. While Kiersten Lowdermilk, sophomore nursing major with a forensic science minor from Clarksburg, WV, will present findings around using dermestid beetles to enhance forensic science curriculum.
“These students have been working on their projects all year,” said Kristy Henson, Faculty Advisor and Assistant Professor of Forensic Science. “I am so proud that they will be able to share their hard work and exceptional findings with our state legislators.”
Participants were selected based on the quality of the proposal, readability of the abstract, geographical distribution of the participants, diversity of the disciplines represented and of the participating students’ backgrounds.
“This kind of research, this kind of critical and creative thinking, these are the hallmarks of a quality, comprehensive liberal arts education,” said Mirta M. Martin, Fairmont State University President. “We are thrilled that Fairmont State students have been chosen to present their research to our legislators and executive members of our state government, and I am confident that these undergraduates, Peydan and Kiersten, will represent our Falcon Family well.”
Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol is sponsored by West Virginia State University, West Virginia University, Marshall University and the University of Charleston.
CHARLESTON, W.Va – West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has notified Morgantown leaders that it remains the opinion of the Attorney General’s Office that the city’s proposed police reform ordinance would violate state law.
The letter, sent Thursday, expresses grave concern that any attempt by Morgantown City Council to create a Civilian Police Review and Advisory Board would still run afoul of the Legislature’s intent for the police civil service commissions to serve as a “complete and exclusive system” for the investigation and adjudication of police misconduct charges.
Even with the most problematic provisions eliminated, the Attorney General believes judicial precedent may require a court to strike down the ordinance in its entirety.
“It remains the opinion of the Office of the Attorney General that the Morgantown City Council does not have the legal authority to enact any municipal ordinance purporting to conduct investigations or hearings in connection with complaints relating to members of the Morgantown Police Department,” Attorney General Morrisey writes. “Any such ordinance would directly conflict with the express provisions of W.Va. Code … I hope this opinion persuades the Council to take no action in this matter that would violate West Virginia law.”
The Attorney General believes city leaders have taken the issue very serious by soliciting public comment and and the legal opinion of the AG. However, the opinion remains unchanged from concerns he expressed in September 2020.
Morrisey’s letter says the proposed police review board would violate sections of state law that require such complaints and any other matters that may result in punitive action against a police officer to be addressed through the existing Police Civil Service Commission.
The Attorney General argues state law does not provide cities the ability to grant such authority to a separate entity, even to hold hearings or issue recommended actions.
Also in the letter, examples cited by Morgantown officials of similar boards in other states exist because laws in those states lack unique language that is present in West Virginia law, where civil service commissions are set forth as the “complete and exclusive system” for the investigation and adjudication of alleged police misconduct.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Morgantown city councilman from the Third Ward, Zack Cruze abruptly tendered his immediate resignation to city officials Thursday morning.
Cruze was elected as a write-in candidate in 2019 and had recently taken an employment opportunity out-of-state.
“They have 30-days to reappoint in the event of a resignation,” Cruze said,” So, if I resigned before 30-days of the election then they would have to appoint, which I felt would interfere with the election, if they appointed someone that was running I thought it make for an unfair election.”
Cruze has been on deployment with the Federal Emergency Management Agency on and deployment and moved from his Jones Avenue home at the end of February. In his letter, Cruze made it clear he has a property until mid-April.
According to Cruze, the immediate resignation was triggered by complaint filed by the wife of former city councilman Ryan Wallace, Christine Wallace.
“She filed a complaint with the secretary of state, and honestly my intention was to make this as easy as possible and to create a fair election and I think her drawing attention to this will shadow our election.”
Cruze did take a moment to reflect on his time serving the Morgantown community.
“That was my entire reason for running for council, I wanted to allow for that voice of under represented people and I think I did that,” Cruze said,” That coupled with the Foster Parent Paid Leave Act are some of the things I’m really proud of.”
FAIRMONT, W.Va. – House Bill 2805, the measure to reunify Fairmont State University and Pierpont College of Community and Technical Education is moving to the House Education Committee.
Mon County Delegate Joe Statler is the lead sponsor on the legislation that Fairmont State University Board of Governor’s Chairman, David Goldberg says will better support students at all levels.
“Now we have the opportunity to take two good strong organizations and create the model back to where we started a few years back,” Goldberg said,” Traditional students and non-traditional students having a consistent pathway to success.”
On WAJR’s Talk of the Town, Goldberg said there will be no major staff reorganizations, but there will advantages in economies of scale.
“Take some of the excess money, reinvest it back into the programs,” Goldberg said,” Mechanics for aeronautical to tie in to what’s going on in Harrison County and the airport in Clarksburg.”
Dr. Sarah Armstrong Tucker is the Chancellor of the West Virginia Community and Technical College System and Chancellor of the Higher Education Policy Commission sets the standards for the technical system and there will be no deviation. Additionally, Goldberg says they want maintain solid systems for traditional and non-traditional students.
“Has requirements for a community technical college and a university- the certificates, the degrees, the two year associates degrees lead by the state-we will follow it,” Goldberg said,” The free tuition for the community college students will continue.”
The Board of Governors for the merged institution will be expanded to include representatives from trades and professional careers from the area.
“Have a better opportunity to advance together rather than fighting for the same resources,” Goldberg said,” And sometimes not, in my opinion, investing in right way to succeed on a greater scale.”
Goldberg says the unified institution will be a benefit to North Central West Virginia, industries and perspective students.
“I think together we can have a model to show a broader way to reduce cost and improve dollars of investment,” Goldberg said.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Morgantown city councilors approved the first reading of the FY 2021-22 budget with a unanimous vote.
The $38 million budget includes a $4.1 million carry over, a $1 million contingency fund and represents a 3.3 percent decrease from the previous year.
There will be no cost-of-living increase, a part-time position is removed from the Finance Department, a Code Enforcement officer is eliminated and an IT position in the Finance Department will also be reclassified. The budget also adds a Street Outreach Coordinator to work in the police department and a traffic engineer in the Engineering Department.
There are some revenue items like property tax that are being dialed in as figures come in from the assessor’s office.
“We received a certificate of valuation from the County Assessor that calculated the levy rates,” Morgantown city manager Kim Haws said,” The approximate increase in property tax revenues for the upcoming fiscal year is about $265,000.”
Haws noted there are boards and commissions that either have no budget or have made no budget request for the fiscal year. Council would the flexibility of the $1 million dollar contingency fund to keep those efforts moving forward if a project came before council or the city manager.
“One of the reasons we have such a large contingency is because it gives city council an opportunity to control those contingency funds and make them available for projects that arise,” Haws said.
Haws and councilor Bill Kawecki met with the West Virginia Municipal League to discuss strategies regard the effort to erase user fess by the state legislature. Haws said the legislature would have to provide ample notice before taking the user fees away from the nine communities in the state with them.
Although healthcare cost remain largely flat there will be increase in pension expense.
“A 1.2 percent COLA adjustment will need to be included in our pensions for FY 2022,” Haws said,” To be able to account for inflation and other factors.”
The FY 22 budget also includes a $100,000 line item for downtown initiatives. According to Haws, that could be facade work or other downtown projects. Fourth Ward councilor Jenny Selin requested a sum of up to $75,000 to fund similar efforts on the waterfront or in the Wharf District.
“Should I particular project come to fruition and need immediate attention we’ll have the flexibility to work with that group or commission to fund that project,” Haws said.
Mayor Ron Dulaney commented on the organized and timely preparation of the budget document. The work started back in December and included a work session in January and the first formal review in February.
“I appreciate the fact that back in the first week of December council had an opprotunity to share with the administeration what some our indivdual proporities were within our overarching planning objectives ,” Dulaney said,” I think that very useful.”
The second reading of the budget ordinance will be March 16.
FAIRMONT, W.Va. – The woman who served as Marion County Clerk for nearly 40 years, Janice Cosco has passed away at the age of 85.
Cosco served as Clerk from 1981 to September of 2020 when she resigned citing health as one of the reasons. Julie Kincaid was appointed by the commission to assume her role. Kincaid worked with Cosco for about 10 years.