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Saturday, July 13, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Mayor Says Town Board Usurps His Authority

(CN) - The mayor of a small West Virginia town deep in the heart of coal country has gone to war against the town council, claiming its members are usurping his authority to make employment decisions.

Bill Pauley, 86, has been the mayor of Marmet, W. Va., for 30 years, but since mid-2014, he's been mired in controversy over his firing of Johnny Walker, the town's popular public works director.

Critics of the mayor claimed this and other actions he's taken in regard to the hiring and retention of employees, is based in large part on cronyism.

The firing of Walker inflamed the community, and on May 26, 2014, scores of residents jammed the town hall to express their displeasure with the move. Pauley was eventually forced to reverse himself and rehire Walker, but the mayor and the town council continued to clash over what the reinstated public works director should be paid.

In a lawsuit filed in the Kanawha County circuit court, Pauley asks the court to determine which entity -- his office or the town council -- possesses authority to appoint and dismiss officers and employees of the town government, "namely the street superintendent and town attorney."

Pauley insists the town council infringed on his authority in rehiring Walker, and that in doing so it abridged the mayor's right to determine the salaries of employees.

"Finally, it is Mayor Pauley's position the salary council has established for the street superintendent has amounted to an increase for him during his term in that office which is prohibited by explicit state law," the complaint says.

Pauley says that in March, as his dispute with the council raged, its members abruptly fired the town attorney, whom he appointed.

"Following dismissal of the town attorney a veteran member of council asked the mayor to appoint an attorney the council members preferred thus confirming the mayor's authority to make this appointment," Pauley says.

The mayor contends the town council's actions effectively upend the intention of the town charter that was adopted 94 years ago.

He seeks declaratory relief, including a determination on the respective authority of his office and the town council, and an additional finding on whether or not the town council violated the law through any of its actions.He is represented by Richard Robb of South Charleston, W. Va.

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