Kanawha magistrate sued for junk on property

By Chris Dickerson | Aug 9, 2006

CHARLESTON – A Kanawha County magistrate has found himself in an unusual position: On the other side of the bench.

CHARLESTON – A Kanawha County magistrate has found himself in an unusual position: On the other side of the bench.

A criminal complaint was filed against Magistrate Warren "Magoo" McGinnis on Wednesday in Kanawha County Magistrate Court.

The complaint, filed by John Luoni of the Kanawha County Planning & Development Office, says McGinnis is guilty of violating the county's public nuisance and property maintenance ordinance.

The complaint says McGinnis' property at Route 6, Box 123 on Bakers Fork Road in Charleston essentially is a dump.

It mentions an accumulation of rubbish and garbage, four mobile homes on one lot and unlicensed motor vehicles.

"Basically, we've got a lot of rubbish and debris there," said Luoni, who is a code enforcement official with the department. "There are some mobile homes that aren't supposed to be on that lot. There are some abandoned vehicles.

"We received lots of complaints from neighbors. That's what prompted us. But we haven't been able to get him to remove stuff."

Some of the other items Luoni mentioned seeing at the property were some old appliances, a 55-gallon drum and a mobile home "he isn't allowed to have out there has some rubbish on the porch."

"We've been trying to get him to clean up for a long time," said Luoni, who is a former member of the Kanawha County Board of Education.

Luoni said the ordinance in question was adopted July 7, 2005. If McGinnis is found guilty, the penalty is a fine of between $100 and $1,000. And Luoni said he can be found guilty of a separate offense for each month in which it occurs.

The next step is a preliminary hearing at 10 a.m. Aug. 31. Luoni said he would expect a bench trial in late September or early October.

McGinnis, who apparently is on vacation, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

McGinnis, who is 75 or 76, won the magistrate seat in 2004 after more than two decades of trying. He finished 10th in the race for 10 magistrate seats.

A veteran, former electrician and retired Charleston police officer, McGinnis said a fellow officer gave him his nickname.

"I was always getting into trouble," he told the Charleston Daily Mail on Election Night 2004, referencing the cartoon character Mr. Magoo.

McGinnis wears thick glasses like the cartoon character whose poor vision often got him into troublesome situations.

That night, McGinnis told the Charleston Gazette he "ain't afraid of anybody."

"Some of my fellow police officers said I could start a fight in a one-car funeral," he told the paper. "(They said) I'd need a safety belt in the chair as a magistrate so I wouldn't get up and knock a guy in the head for calling me a bad name."

McGinnis was cited in the 1990s by Charleston building officials for the same problem.

In 1996, McGinnis was under a court order for months to clean up his property inside city limits where a 1989 fire destroyed most of his house. He was sleeping in a camper.

Mayor Jay Goldman ordered the property cleaned up, and McGinnis moved some debris across the street, which is outside city limits. The junk left behind included three giant synthetic heads apparently from a circus.

Kanawha County Magistrate Court case number: 06M-9316

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