Dunbar council sues mayor, others over pay issue

By Cara Bailey | Jul 9, 2007

CHARLESTON - The City Council of Dunbar has filed a lawsuit against, among others, the mayor and the town clerk claiming their actions are illegal after the mayor changed the pay of city department heads from salary to hourly.

In the suit filed June 18 in Kanawha Circuit Court, the City Council of Dunbar, through attorney Mark Sadd, names Mayor Roger Wolfe, Clerk Ron Rowley and several other department heads as defendants.

Also named in the suit is Fire Chief George Bossie, Parks and Recreation Director Connie Fulknier, Public Works Director David Nelson and Police Chief E.E. Whittington.

According to the lawsuit, the compensation of Bossie, Fulknier, Nelson and Whittington -- the town's four department heads -- has been an issue in meetings since October 2006. During a meeting Oct. 26, the mayor proposed a salary increase for each of the department heads.

During the Nov. 9 meeting, Wolfe proposed that the city give each department head a combined raise of $25,000. Under that proposal, the police and fire chiefs would receive a $7,500 salary increase, and the parks and recreation and public works directors would receive a $5,000 salary increase.

The motion was denied, and the Finance Committee agreed to recommend salary increases for the department heads of between six and 12 percent, the suit says.

According to the lawsuit, the pay of the department heads went back and forth between the mayor and the Finance Committee for several months.

During a March 27, 2007, meeting, the suit says Wolfe remarked that he wished to reallocate the salary for the mayor toward salary increases for the department heads. The motion failed.

During the same meeting, Wolfe said "he would unilaterally convert the department heads from salaried to hourly employees," the suit says.

Wolfe said the department heads would have a 40-hour workweek and if they worked more than 40 hours, they would receive time and a half for each additional hour worked.

"The mayor told the Council that he would implement his decision the next day," the suit says.

According to the suit, the plan was not on the agenda and no vote was taken to approve or disapprove of the plan.

"The very next day, the mayor, in collaboration with the clerk, implemented the mayor's unauthorized and unapproved plan," the suit says. "Since that day, the mayor, in collaboration with the clerk, has paid the department heads time as hourly employees and has paid them additional compensation based on time and a half for each additional hour of work."

The suit claims the mayor and clerk are violating West Virginia Code and the town's charter, which states, "Council shall fix the salaries of all officers and employees not otherwise herein provided."

According to the lawsuit, since the March 27 meeting, Wolfe forbade anyone from discussing the matter.

In the 15-count suit, the council claims that as of the date the suit was filed, the department heads were receiving hourly pay.

The council seeks to have the actions of the mayor and clerk deemed in violation of state law and action that states the council is the only body with the authority to fix salaries.

The case has been assigned to Judge Paul Zakaib.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 07-C-1210

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