Kaufman wont reopen Clendenin mayor case

By John O'Brien | Nov 15, 2006

CHARLESTON - Kanawha Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman said Tuesday that he won't take a harder look at a ruling he issued concerning the power of Clendenin Mayor Bob Ore.

Former town police officer Charles Burkhamer argued months ago that Ore did not have the authority to fire him. Kaufman sided with the mayor then, and when Burkhamer's lawyer recently claimed to have uncovered new information, didn't back off his original ruling.

"I'm not reopening this thing," Kaufman reportedly said in the hearing.

Attorney Henry Wood III told Kaufman that the town charter can't be located, making it harder to prove the extent of the mayor's powers in the town. Kaufman decided that wasn't good enough.

Burkhamer had previously tried to determine that his firing was outside Ore's authority, but Kaufman determined that state law gives a mayor control of his town's police department.

After trying to settle the dispute without litigation, Burkhamer is now pursuing a different avenue. Judge Louis Bloom has been assigned the wrongful termination case.

Burkhamer's complaint in Kanawha Magistrate Court says he was attempting to execute an arrest warrant on Clendenin residents Terry Peck and Misti Sexton at 11:30 p.m. on April 20 when Peck answered her door and handed him a phone.

On the other end was Ore, who told him that he did not approve of serving warrants so late at night and instructed him not to arrest the couple.

Burkhamer filed his complaint Magistrate Court June 5, claiming Ore was guilty of obstruction. Ore learned of a warrant that was drawn up and turned himself in.

Burkhamer's civil complaint says he was wrongfully fired later that day by Ore.

The defense says that because Kaufman already ruled on the matter that the lawsuit should be dismissed. Karen Tracy McElhinny of Charleston's Schuman, McCuskey and Slicer is representing Ore.

The case had a short stay in federal court before Judge David Faber decided the dispute was created by state law.

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