CHARLESTON – A petition to have four City of Nitro officials removed from office has been filed in both Kanawha and Putnam counties.
The petition, spearheaded by activist Karen Fritz, seeks the removal of Recorder Rita Cox and City Council members Bill Clark, Brenda Tyler and Joe Savilla. It was filed by attorney Mike Clifford on Tuesday in Kanawha and Putnam counties because the City of Nitro lies in both.
The petition, which includes 88 signatures, accuses the four of "official misconduct, malfeasance in office, incompetence and neglect of duty and for violations of state statutes and provisions of the City Charter."
The City of Nitro has been in the headlines recently for financial problems and problems with former city treasurer Tifney Terry.
Fritz' petition says the four failed to require Terry to post an insurance bond for 18 months as required by state law. It also says they lowered the bond requirement from $15,000 to $10,000. It also says the four allowed Terry to incur expenses above the city budget and that they held "an unlawful meeting" of council on Nov. 17 with Mayor Rusty Casto.
Tyler resides in the Kanawha County section of Nitro. Clark, Savilla and Cox live in the Putnam County portion of Nitro. The petition does not council members Gertie Estep, Tim Harrison, Bill Javins or Bill Racer.
In addition to the removal of the four officials, the petitioners seek to have a judge enter an order causing the petition to be entered of record, that it be filed, a summons issued to the respondents and that the petition be forwarded to the state Supreme Court for appointment of a three-judge panel hear the petition.
"It's a sad situation," Clifford said Tuesday about Nitro's financial troubles. "I didn't file this earlier because I didn't want to interfere with the audit and the investigation into the financial troubles.
"But now, all of that is winding down, so I determined it was time to file it."
A financial report released last week by the accounting firm of Chambers, Paterno & Associates in Charleston says Nitro has a deficit of nearly $1 million. The city owes more than $800,000 in bills.
"It appears the current financial condition reflects cumulative deterioration over a number of years," the report says. "The city must find significant additional revenues, make substantial cuts to expenditures, do a more effective job of accounting for and monitoring its financial activity, and sustain these efforts over a number of years to put its house in order."
Last week, officials for Tri-State Racetrack & Gaming Center -- which is located in Nitro -- gave Kanawha County officials a check for $200,000 as a down payment on building fees to help the City of Nitro. Kanawha County also offered the services of county comptroller Dave Fontalbert to help the city with its budget woes.
Also last week, Savilla offered to loan the city $50,000 of his money to help with the problems. He has said the state ethics commission had OK'd the loan.
Kanawha Circuit Court case number 07-MISC-475 and Putnam Circuit Court case number 07-C-494