Cumberland Times-News

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October 10, 2013

Piedmont foreman will return to job after prison

PIEDMONT, W.Va. — A majority of the Piedmont Town Council agreed Wednesday that town foreman John Shingler should still have a job once he returns from prison despite the fact that the transcript from his sentencing hearing in August states he shouldn’t be employed in any position of public trust.

The transcript from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia Martinsburg Division states, “The defendant shall not hold or be employed in any position of public trust, or where he must or can handle money or finances.”

Shingler was sentenced to serve three months in federal prison after being convicted of conversion of government property in regard to six Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers that he obtained as a representative of the city for the use of private citizens. He was also placed on one year of supervised release after the prison term.

Former Councilman Ray Hall addressed the issue during the public comment portion of Wednesday’s council meeting.

“I’m going to assume that those of you that went (to the hearing) heard this,” said Hall. “If you, indeed, bring him back as foreman, there is a real good chance you will be held in contempt of federal court. You can’t bring him back; it’s a court order. I’m hoping you all have a change of heart or don’t want to get in any further trouble than you already are.”

Former Mayor Lester Clifford noted that matter was never brought up during Shingler’s sentencing hearing in district court.

“I think, as a town, we have the right to run it the way we want to,” said Clifford. “What we have in our bylaws doesn’t compare to what they have in their bylaws. ... Whatever comes we will just have to take and face it.”

Councilman Gary Bradley noted that he didn’t support giving Shingler his job back when he gets out of prison.

“I would just like to go on the record and say that I do not think that on Dec. 24, Mr. Shingler’s first day back, that he should be employed by the city of Piedmont due to the fact that it’s against a federal judge’s orders,” said Bradley.

Councilwoman Paula Boggs questioned what money or finances Shingler handled.

“I don’t know; that’s just what the judge put,” said Bradley.

Mayor Leon Garland noted that Shingler doesn’t handle money.

“Yeah, but he is in a position of public trust,” said Bradley.

Hall noted that even if a person was just getting a key made for the town that it would be considered a position of trust.

“Quit hurting us and quit hurting yourselves,” said Hall.

Resident John Amoruso suggested that the council should consult with its lawyer.

“You have a lawyer; ask him. That will put an end to all the arguments,” said Amoruso.

During a special meeting Sept. 18, the council revoted 4-1, with Bradley voting against, to approve Shingler’s 90-day leave of absence.

“For the past two to four weeks, since I voted no for the leave of absence, I’ve been called a coward, a traitor,” said Bradley.

There were some questions of legality of a previous vote on Shingler’s leave of absence made during a Sept. 11 council meeting. Boggs noted that during the first vote taken, Bradley voted yes to the leave of absence.

“On an illegal vote,” said Bradley. “As the state of West Virginia sees, it’s not a vote.”

In other news, the council voted to rescind a prior vote it made during a special meeting that would have allowed Councilwoman Freda Fisher to speak with town attorney Jim Carskadon regarding a lawsuit involving the FEMA trailer storage costs.

The council then voted to return to its original vote that would allow both Fisher and Town Clerk Betsy Rice to speak to Carskadon.

“Betsy knows more about this trailer situation,” said Fisher.

During the meeting Wednesday, Rice indicated that the only way she would ever speak to Carskadon is if someone else is present when she does.

“I do have all the documentation,” said Rice.

Rice has pending ethics violations against her regarding the trailers.

“One of them was because the mayor said talk to the attorney,” said Rice. “I would assume that the mayor gave the attorney the permission to talk to me to relay information about the lawsuit. My understanding is that the ethics committee sent it on to the prosecuting attorney to decide whether or not we are going to be charged,” said Rice, who noted she hadn’t received a formal letter to that effect yet. “The prosecuting attorney told me he wasn’t doing anything about it.”

Also, Rice has pending ethics violations for allegedly signing titles to the six FEMA trailers.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.

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