Councilman responds to comments

PHILIPPI – Controversial comments made during and after a previous Philippi City Council meeting were once again addressed Tuesday by a council member.

Reading from a prepared statement, Councilman Terrence Boyd publicly addressed his concerns about the two issues that first came to light on March 4 during and after the meeting at which City Council voted 3-2 to opt into the E911 addressing and mapping

system.

Boyd first addressed the comments made by Barbour County Economic Development Authority Executive Director Dean Springer, speaking as a private citizen, and David Runion of Philippi. Springer told Council on March 4 that he had already contacted the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office about the paperwork to force a recall of office for council members who did not vote the way members of the public were asking them – to opt out of the E911 addressing and mapping system.

Runion said on March 4 that citizens would someday cast their vote to see if council members keep their seats, but Springer insisted such a change did not have to wait until the next election.

On Tuesday, Boyd said state code states “(sic) It shall be unlawful for any person to threaten harm to another with intent to influence the official action of a public servant in a pending or prospective administrative or judicial proceeding before such public servant, or with intent to influence a public servant or party official to violate his legal duty as a public servant or party official.”

At the March 4 meeting, members of the public were allowed to comment prior to City Council’s call for a motion and vote on the E911 matter.

“I don’t want to speak for the other two councilpersons (who voted to opt in), but I believe the comments that were made by Mr. Springer and Mr. Runion fit the above definition of intimidation or harassment as they were attempting to impede, obstruct or sway my vote to vote in opposition of the proposed E911 system,” Boyd said.

“It was stated that information had been obtained from the Secretary of State on how to recall an election,” Boyd continued. “I can save you a step, as I’ve had the information for one-and-a-half years following a request by citizens to have our mayor removed from office.”

Mayor Jerry Mouser was offered an opportunity to respond to the above and other remarks made later, but he declined. Mouser said he wanted to read Boyd’s prepared statement and “digest” it first.

Springer, however, did step up to the podium to respond to Boyd’s statements.

“It is hard to commit a crime when you are explaining your civil rights to an elected official of petitions, voting, recall and things like that,” Springer said. “So if I’m explaining a process, or what can happen to an elected official by using civil rights… it’s hardly a crime, especially in an open meeting. So, if you were threatened by me voicing my civil rights of being able to petition and do a recall, then I’m sorry for that, but it’s still a civil right that not only each of us, but you all, have too as far as petitions to our elected officials.”

Boyd said his decision to vote in favor of the E911 system was made for the citizens of the city who already have changed their addresses and to prevent the confusion that could be caused if the progress of the E911 mapping and addressing project was stopped.

Boyd also addressed a comment first published on March 5 in an Inter-Mountain article in which Mouser questioned the legality of Boyd, Councilmen Ed Larry and Councilman John Green allegedly gathering after the meeting. Mouser also said in a telephone interview with The Inter-Mountain later that week that citizens told him they witnessed the alleged gathering.

Boyd, Green and Larry responded in an article published March 6, denying met after the adjournment of the regular City Council meeting.

“Before you start hurling rocks and accusations, make sure your facts are true and can be substantiated,” Boyd said during Tuesday’s meeting. “I might add that I believe these false statements could be proven to be libel and or defamation of character.

“I’m not perfect, as there was only one man that was, and I believe he said that he who is without sin, let him cast the first stone. Being unethical and hurting the city and its citizens is something that I would not intentionally do. I would never attempt to deny anyone their right to their freedom of free speech… however, I would simply ask that you consider your facts and your sources before making any statements.”

Earlier that evening, Mouser said during a work session he asked Buckhannon City Attorney David McCauley about the E911 addressing and mapping situation. He said McCauley told him the city would have to have its own addressing and mapping ordinance regardless of whether it opted in or not.

Mouser said he was unable to get in contact with the Philippi city attorney about the matter and suggested consulting him.

Councilman Ed Larry responded during the work session to say he was under the impression that by accepting the E911 system, the city was also accepting the county’s addressing and mapping ordinance.

Contact Melissa Toothman by email at mtoothman@theintermountain.com.