Westover officials decline independent probe of city government, no action taken on embattled police officer

WESTOVER, W.Va. – Efforts by Westover city council to conduct an independent investigation into Westover Mayor Dave Johnson officially ended due to a lack of a second. First Ward Councilman Ralph Mullins provided a detailed list of items he has proof of and wants an independent organization to investigate.

Mullins listed accusations of obstruction of justice relating to the Aaron Dalton case, failure to discipline Dalton in connection with releasing a fentanyl dealer with a significant amount of drugs, a clarification from the Monongalia County prosecutor to pause investigations into Dalton, citizen and business owners complaints of being targeted by officer Dalton and the Office of Code Enforcement, falsification of official documents and alleged efforts by city attorney Tim Stranko to cover up potentially criminal actions and statements made by the mayor.

Lt. Aaron Dalton is the subject of two federal civil rights investigations. Westover officials said there were no criminal findings in investigations conducted by the FBI and West Virginia State Police. Dalton has been on paid administrative leave for more than a year while the cases have been under investigation.

During the public portion of the meeting, resident Virginia Altman Moore recognized accomplishments in annexation and the West Run development, but said the administration has become so mired in negativity they should resign for the good of the city.

“I have lost confidence in the leadership of this city and I welcome Mayor Johnson’s announcement he will not seek reelection,” Altman-Moore said,” I think the other council members who have quietly allowed the situation to fester should follow his lead.”

First Ward Councilman Ralph Mullins said there is the possibility an investigation is currently underway that has not been made public. For the last few months Mullins has insisted he has proof of the allegations and would turn that information over to an independent investigative body.

“If the Northern District of West Virginia, West Virginia State Police, the Monongalia County Prosecutors Office- any law enforcement agency or independent investigative body contacts me and wants that documentation, I will gladly provide it,” Mullins said.

Another resident at the meeting said he had proof of misuse of city resources. The resident referred to sidewalk construction, mowing for council members and neighbors and also some paving of private driveways for council members.

According to Mullins, the Monongalia County Prosecutor reviewed the case and urged the public to take action.

“She agreed that there were numerous violations that were serious enough the citizens could sign a petition and enter into Circuit Court to have the mayor removed from office,” Mullins said.

At-large councilor Duane Tatar said he did not second the motion for an independent investigation due to a lack of evidence. Tatar said the investigation was being done in public space on social media where some facts are in question. Tatar encouraged residents to contact elected officials with questions and resist the urge to participate in the social media spats that have developed. Further, Tatar said the administration has an opportunity to learn from the Dalton matter going forward.

“What we need to do as a council and a city is to learn from what we’ve seen in these videos and make sure these types of incidents never happen again,” Tatar said.

Councilors went into executive session to discuss the Dalton matter, but ended it with no action taken. Members of the public have expressed concern with the amount of time Dalton has remained on paid leave and have called on officials to take action.

“I am forbidden to comment on that situation,” Mullins said,” The only thing that I can say is that hopefully in the near future that it will be come public knowledge.”

The next regular meeting of Westover city council is scheduled for November 2 at 6 p.m.