Cumberland Times-News

September 12, 2013

Piedmont officials will vote again after residents question legality

Elaine Blaisdell
Cumberland Times-News

— PIEDMONT, W.Va. — Following the Piedmont Council meeting on Wednesday, residents raised concerns about the legality of a vote. After voting to go into executive session to discuss personnel matters, the council voted to grant Town Foreman John Shingler a 90-day leave of absence, according to Councilman Gary Bradley.

There was some confusion about whether the vote was legal and residents waiting outside weren’t called back into the meeting to hear the vote in open session.

“It wasn’t a legal vote,” said Bradley in an interview with the Times-News.

 Votes may not be taken in an executive session, according to the West Virginia Ethics Commission. Instead, the governing body may only vote once it reconvenes in an open session.  

A revote on the request for an employee leave of absence is on the agenda for a special meeting Wednesday.

In August, Shingler was sentenced in U.S. District Court, Northern District of West Virginia, Martinsburg to serve three months in federal prison and be placed on one year of supervised release after the jail term.

The agenda for the special meeting also includes a discussion on a defense against storage costs for six Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers that were stored at Iser’s 24-hour Towing in Fort Ashby.  

Also, during the council meeting, Jim Carskadon, city attorney, asked that the council designate representatives to discuss the litigation over the storage fees.

“If the commission is going to defend this, then I need to have individuals to speak to. I can’t speak to everybody,” said Carskadon. “We should also seek authorization this evening for the city to defend itself against potential claims like this in regard to the trailers.”

Carskadon said he had asked what the storage fees were for the trailers and hadn’t received an answer yet. The trailer storage fees as of June were $107,000, owner Jimmy Iser indicated in a previous interview with the Times-News.  

Resident John Amoruso asked if the city is going to pay the storage fees for the trailers.

“That hasn’t been decided yet,” said Councilwoman Freda Fisher.

“I would like to go on record saying those trailers never for one second benefited this town and therefore, I would also like to say I’m totally against any money coming out of our budget for any of those costs,” said Amoruso. “I don’t see how Piedmont can take our taxpayer money and spend one penny more toward this fiasco.”

Amoruso noted that the citizens had already spent enough by paying for an attorney to defend Shingler in regard to the FEMA trailers. The money for Shingler’s legal fees came from the general account.

“None of this would have happened if the previous administration had done the right thing, several right things,” said former Councilman Ray Hall. “We wouldn’t be looking at a lawsuit. John Shingler wouldn’t have been brought to trial. All this happened because the council and the previous mayor made some really horrific choices. They chose to put their personal interest ahead of the city’s interest.”

Hall said that six council members and one former council member had received letters from the ethics commission regarding the FEMA trailers.

“I know that those who have received the letters have X amount of time to respond to the ethics commission as to their intent, whether or not they want to defend themselves,” said Hall. “There is more coming. This administration wasn’t even in session for two months before they committed their first ethics violation.”

Amoruso also noted that the council meetings aren’t very accommodating to the citizens and should be moved to the fire hall to make it more comfortable for guests.

“You can only get several people here. ... at any given time there is three of you with your back to us.”

Amoruso said that he has trouble hearing during the meetings.

The special meeting will take place Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at the Town Hall.

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