Craigo accuses Winfield officials of unconstitutional code enforcement
Lawrence Smith Apr. 16, 2010, 3:00am
WINFIELD - A former state Senator is seeking the court's intervention in stopping what he believes is an abuse of power committed by one of Putnam County's municipalities.
Oshel B. Craigo on April 7 filed a writ of prohibition in Putnam Circuit Court. In his writ, Craigo alleges the Town of Winfield improperly cited Craigo Real Estate Corporation for building code violations.
In his writ, Craigo maintains CRE applied for a permit on Jan. 18, 2006, to build six residential apartments on Cash Lane. The total projected cost of the apartments was $315,000.
Over the next 10 months, CRE submitted all the required information on the project to the town's engineer and planning commission. On Oct. 27, 2006, Craigo alleges city officials notified CRE the project "met all the requirements for issuance of a building permit."
Four days later, the permit to build the complex was approved. It was completed less than two years later on June 10, 2008.
A month later on July 17, the writ alleges the director of the planning commission informed the commission of recommended changes he made to CRE for the project's construction. He also told the commission "he was of the opinion that there was some variance between the site plan that he had approved and the conditions as they actually existed at the construction location."
Two months later, the director notified Craigo the town would not issue a certificate of occupancy for the complex since the alleged variance violated the town's building and housing code. On Feb. 25, both Craigo and CRE were issued a criminal citation for violating two sections of the housing and building code.
Records show the citations were issued by Harrison Lucas. A hearing was scheduled on the citations for April 8 at the Winfield Municipal Building.
In his writ, Craigo accuses the town of usurping its authority in issuing the citations. Since the town approved all the plans for the complex, it cannot refuse CRE a certificate of occupancy.
Also, the code violations both he and CRE are charged with are misdemeanors subject to a one-year statute of limitations. Charging them with code violations on Feb. 25 on an alleged violation the town knew about as early as Sept. 18, 2008, falls outside the one-year window.
Furthermore, Craigo alleges the town is engaging in an ex-post facto enforcement of the code violations. He avers the sections of the code the city is alleging he and CRE violated where not adopted until June 10, 2008 after the original permit was issued, and the project completed.
Craigo's writ asks the court to both postpone the April 8 hearing, and order the town to cease its prosecution of the alleged code violations. Also, Craigo asks that he and CRE be awarded court costs and attorney fees. They are represented by Nitro attorney Harvey D. Peyton.
The case is assigned to Judge Phillip M. Stowers.
Until he was defeated eight years ago, Craigo, 72, served five terms in West Virginia Senate. The later part of his tenure was spent as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
In addition to CRE, Craigo is president and CEO of Better Foods Inc. which is the parent company of the Tudor's Biscuit World, and Gino's Pizza and Spaghetti House restaurant chains.
Putnam Circuit Court case number 10-C-130