Alderson Town Council To Discuss Beginning Of Mayor Removal Process - The West Virginian
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Alderson Town Council To Discuss Beginning Of Mayor Removal Process

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At the request of a council member, the Alderson Town Council will consider beginning removal proceedings against Mayor Travis Copenhaver in the December meeting.

Shortly before the Thursday, November 11, meeting ended, Councilmember Charlie Lobban called for council to discuss the charges against Copenhaver and the consideration for removal proceedings to begin.

Copenhaver called for a motion to adjourn after he and local attorney Ryan Keesee spoke on Copenhaver’s criminal charges emerging from an incident in July – felony burglary, conspiracy, child neglect and misdemeanor assault.

“I’ll make that motion, [but] I would like this put on the agenda for the next meeting for us to discuss, for the council to discuss,” said Lobban.

In addition to the Thursday meeting, Keesee has previously spoken at the October Town Council meeting, as well as the September council special session.

“Since the last meeting, my issue before the council was why hasn’t a vote been taken as to whether to begin removal proceedings against our mayor,” said Keesee. “… In case any of you missed it, a preliminary hearing was held in Greenbrier County Magistrate Court River County match report and the case was bound over, meaning probable cause was found after a full hearing. Those cases are not going away. They’re moving forward. It’s still a stain on our town. … I am still urging this committee to put [it on the agenda for] the next meeting, a vote, up or down, to begin the proceedings.”

In the September session, City Attorney Grady Ford explained that according to West Virginia State Code 6-6-7, elected officials are subject to removal only for official misconduct, neglect of duty, or incompetence. There are multiple parties that can make that decision, including Town Council.

“This council can begin the proceeds and your town counsel confirmed that, but many of you act like we can’t,” Keesee said. “Well, it is true that you can’t summarily dismiss the mayor. That’s absolutely true. He’s not an employee. These elected officials can only be removed by a certain statutory process. I’m just asking that this council vote to begin that process or not. And your silence speaks volumes. Do something.”

Councilmember Charlie Lobban (seated, far left) requested possible beginning of removal proceedings against Mayor Travis Copenhaver (seated at the desk) be discussed at the next council meeting.

Keesee also pointed to difficulty in obtaining the town’s municipal code, having paid $25 for a complete copy. While he noted he had not read all of it, he expressed that criminal ordinance’s, now able to be better enforced through the recently approved Homerule program, were out of date.

Copenhaver denied Keesee’s out-of-date claim, not including changes to the State Code passed in recent legislative sessions, where municipalities typically lag behind code updates to match new state laws. Copenhaver also mentioned Keesee’s chickens, saying they were out of the pin, saying they “created issues that Ms. Alderson called me for every morning for two weeks previously.” Alderson objected, stating the calls were over a different concern years ago. The tense exchange resulted in Copenhaver speaking on the public comment and the charges.

“I’m going to tell you something that everybody would love for me to say. None of us in this room are perfect,” said Copenhaver. “I, by far, am not perfect. I promise you that I don’t look down my nose, nor do I in any way feel judgmental towards you. I use the reference of [getting a call in the] morning at 6 a.m. many, many, many mornings. We couldn’t address the issue of the bird, the rooster without a municipal ordinance that is not state code. I’m sorry, if you took offense to that. … It was not my intent.”

Copenhaver then spoke of his previous role as municipal judge, a position he is not currently serving in after the initial felony charges were filed.

“The other thing I’m going to say is I’ve been absolutely amazed at the people who have berated, belittled, and made threats toward my family and myself. I will tell you now, I have helped the majority of those people in many different ways, whether it was to keep their driver’s license when they were convicted of a DUI, whether it was to be able to help them when their child moved into an addiction or rehab program, and we use diversionary tactics to do that.”

Copenhaver also referenced a petition, signed by over 100 people, to begin the process of removing him as mayor.

“I promise you that the signatures on your petition, Mr. Keesee, are not all residents of the town of Alderson. But I will also further say this, I have given Alderson my dang-gonest to make it better. I’m not perfect. My actions were not me as the mayor of the town Alderson and you, as an attorney, swore to uphold the Constitution and we have very much forgotten that you’re innocent until proven guilty. That’s all I have to say. Do I have a motion to adjourn?”

Lobban agreed to make the motion, then asked for the initiation of removal proceedings to be placed on the agenda for discussion during the December meeting.

Ryan Keesee

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