CHARLESTON – The state Supreme Court has appointed a three-judge panel to rule on a petition seeking the removal of four city officials in Nitro.

On Dec. 12, Chief Justice Robin Jean Davis appointed judges Dan P. O'Hanlon from Huntington, Gary L. Johnson from Summersville and J.D. Beane from Parkersburg to a special three-judge court to rule on the merits of a petition seeking the removal of Nitro City Recorder Rita Cox and Council members Bill Clark, Brenda Tyler and Joe Savilla.

Because Nitro is located in both Kanawha and Putnam counties, the petition was filed in the respective circuit courts.

Activist Karen Fritz filed the petition with the assistance of Charleston attorney Mike Clifford. The petition, which was signed by 88 other people, 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."

Specifically, the petition alleges the four failed to require former Nitro Treasurer Tifney Terry to post an insurance bond until 18 months after she was first hired, and lowered the bond from $15,000 to $10,000. Likewise, they are accused of allowing Terry to incur expenses above the city budget, and had "an unlawful meeting" with Mayor Rusty Casto concerning the matter on Nov. 17.

Last month, Terry resigned as treasurer, and an audit was conducted on the city's finances.

Clifford earlier said the petition was in the works, but he was waiting for the audit to be completed.

"I didn't file this earlier because I didn't want to interfere with the audit and the investigation into financial troubles," Clifford said earlier this month. "But now, all of that is winding down, so I determined it was time to file it."

Upon filing the petition, the chief judges in each circuit -- Charlie King in Kanawha and Ed Eagloski of Putnam -- forwarded it to Davis.

In her order, Davis appointed O'Hanlon to head the panel, and set Feb. 15 as the first meeting of the panel.

According to Clifford, O'Hanlon will choose whether the panel meets in Kanawha or Putnam County, and will set a future time to hear arguments in the case.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 07-MISC-475, and Putnam Circuit Court case number 07-C-404

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