Wood hoping fired Clendenin police officer has quick resolution

By John O'Brien | Jun 27, 2006

CHARLESTON - The case of fired Clendenin police officer Charles Burkhamer has seen all the excitement and hoopla of something produced by Barnum and Bailey.

As the situation gets closer and closer to being a full-blown circus, Burkhamer's attorney would even like to see a few ringmasters get involved.

Henry Wood III of Wood Law Office in Charleston said Monday that he hopes the Clendenin Town Council will appoint a three-person board to make a decision on the firing of Burkhamer, who was terminated by Mayor Robert Ore after filing a complaint against Ore with a Kanawha County magistrate, claiming he obstructed the arrest of two Clendenin residents.

It's Wood's hope for a quick resolution, that the board determines that the Town Council can overturn the mayor's decision.

"This is certainly out of the ordinary for a lot of reasons I can't go into just right yet," Wood said. "We certainly have hopes that some actions will be taken by the (Town) Council to reverse the actions of the mayor."

Since Burkhamer was fired June 5, his case has gone before Kanawha Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman and been discussed by the Town Council.

Now it's back in Circuit Court, with Judge Louis Bloom presiding over it.

"We have no other choice," Wood said.

On April 20, Burkhamer says he was executing an arrest warrant on Terry Peck and Misti Sexton around midnight at their home. When Sexton answered the door, she handed Burkhamer her phone. On the other end was Ore.

Burkhamer says Ore ordered him not to arrest the two because it was too late at night. Ore has denied he said that.

On June 5, Burkhamer filed a complaint in Magistrate Court, and a warrant was drawn for Ore's arrest. The mayor learned of it and turned himself in. Later that day, he fired Burkhamer.

Burkhamer's original civil complaint said that Ore did not have the authority to fire him, though Kaufman disagreed and the termination was upheld.

The new complaint filed by Burkhamer contends that his firing was retaliation for taking a stand against Ore.

But Wood doesn't sound like he's too happy to have filed that lawsuit, mainly because it's hard to say how long the case will drag on. Only criminal cases or cases dealing with child abuse get preferential scheduling treatment, Wood said.

That's why he's hoping the Town Council will take some action and create the three-man board, for which Wood says there is a statute.

"This is a procedure that should allow for a quicker resolution, although right now the city has not looked at this for a possible avenue," he said.

He says a reinstatement of Burkhamer's position is his top priority. If that occurs, then he would worry about reimbursement for lost wages.

On Thursday, attorney Bill Chambers was selected as a mediator to address issues between Ore and the Town Council. Burkhamer's situation is only one of many disputes between those two parties.

Included in those conflicts are: A lawsuit saying the town recorder and four Town Council members mismanaged financial and personnel matters; three residents who claim Ore illegally hired and fired workers; and the laying off of four town employees by the Town Council that Ore overturned.

With all those problems to address, it's easy to see why Wood would rather have a three-man board look at his client's problem.

"I hope the (Town) Council seeks competent legal counsel to do this, because I think there is a way it can get done," Wood said.

Until some decision is reached, the circus will continue visiting Clendenin.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 06-C-1176

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