Effort to investigate Westover mayor, council dies with no motion

WESTOVER, W.Va. – Thursday afternoon, an effort to investigate allegations of wrong doing by Westover mayor Dave Johnson died due to lack of a floor motion. However the councilor making the allegations, First Ward councilman Ralph Mullins said he has proof and is prepared to continue the fight.

Westover city attorney Tim Stranko used statements made by Mullins on the September 22, 2021 edition of WAJR’s Talk of the Town to provide his legal view of the allegations made by the councilor.

Stranko told councilors, the mayor and about 15 fifteen people in attendance the city charter gives the mayor exclusive administrative authority accept for in some situations.

In the WAJR interview, Mullins said the city attorney would not respond to his inquiries and was frustrated by what appeared to be mayor’s total control over the administration. Stranko told the chamber that was proof the city was operating according to the charter.

Paragraph d of section 3.04 reads in part,” Except for the purpose of inquiries and investigations under Section 3.09, the Council or its members shall deal with City officers and employees who are subject to the direction and supervision of the Mayor solely through the Mayor, and neither the Council nor its members shall give orders to any such officer or employee, either publicly or privately.”

Other allegations centered around Aaron Dalton, the target of two federal civil rights lawsuits alleging misconduct, that it appeared the administration was protecting him. During the investigation conducted by the city of Westover, the Monongalia County prosecutor asked officials to pause their efforts because the FBI and West Virginia State Police were also investigating Dalton.

During that investigation councilors were given a petition signed by at least 11 officers making allegations of misconduct by Dalton and calling for action.

“We use progressive discipline, we use counseling, we use documentation as any well-run organization would,” Stranko said,” The personnel file for Lt. Dalton was virtually empty when I went to look at it after we received the petition.”

Citing fairness and state law, Stranko said that petition was not released to council or the public. Stranko said the petition was ultimately released by legal counsel representing Dalton.

According to Stranko, the investigations completed by FBI and West Virginia State Police have been closed with no criminal findings.

“Once we got a letter from the prosecuting attorney with no prosecutions we proceeded with the city investigation that is continuing now,” Stranko said.

Stranko told councilors the investigation and communication with councilors was being handled according to state law provisions

Stranko said the was no malfeasance, or lawful acts; misfeasance, unlawful use of authority or nonfeasance, failure to act.

Following the presentation, Mullins requested to make a statement prior to a motion for the investigation or discussion. When Johnson rejected the request Mullins left the meeting and many members of the public engaged in a heated exchange with officials.

Outside council chambers Mullins said he public documentation, audio files, emails and test messages that he plans to use to defend himself and expose wrongdoing by officials. Mullins also said accusation of wrong doing have been made by former police chief Rich Panico, officer Dalton and members of the public.

By city charter, Mullins can pursue his own investigation or hire another organization in the matters raised.

“All of these mentioned individuals need to be deposed, including city council by an independent outside agency in order to get to the truth,” Mullins said,” So, this council can take action against any and all involved in any wrongdoing.”

Mayor Johnson said Mullins is motivated by political aspirations and expressed surprise at the allegations.

“In a way it does because I can’t see where any of this is coming from,” Johnson said,” You know, we’ve done a lot of good over the last 12-and-a-half or 13 years.”

Upon completing his current term, Johnson will have served in city government for 14 years and cited his work on development in the area and annexation.

In the Dalton situation, Johnson said prosecutors in Monongalia County said there one criminal aspect of the case that could result in charges, but it was beyond the statute of limitations for action.

According to Stranko, the city is conducting a very deliberate and thorough investigation into Dalton. The result of that investigation is expected in the coming weeks.

They’re going to make a recommendation, whatever finds they come with,” Johnson said,” Our city prosecutor, our chief and out deputy chief will bring a recommendation to me and we can move from there.”

Mullins does not expect the investigation issue to came back to council for consideration.