Justices to hear Huntington residency case

By Steve Korris | Aug 28, 2008

CHARLESTON – Huntington Mayor David Felinton will defend his right to fire city employees who don't live in the city when the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals hears oral arguments Sept. 3.

Felinton seeks to reverse Cabell Circuit Judge John Cummings, who decided last year that immediate discharge of employees would violate their due process rights.

Cummings granted an injunction in favor of firefighter Jason Eastham and Greg Howard Jr., and voided a residency requirement that the City Council adopted in 2002.

He ruled that employees can require hearings before the city can fire them.

On appeal, city attorney Scott McClure argued that no one intended to violate due process rights.

He wrote that "no municipal ordinance can operate to deny municipal employees enumerated rights guaranteed by the state Constitution and civil service statutes."

He wrote that the Supreme Court approved a residency requirement in Wheeling, and described Huntington's ordinance as a "near mirror image."

For Eastham, Bert Ketchum of Huntington responded that Wheeling doesn't authorize immediate discharge.

Huntington's City Council adopted a resolution in 2006, authorizing Felinton to require proof of residency.

Felinton set a Dec. 14 deadline, but on Dec. 13 Eastham and Howard sued him.

They sued separately, and Cummings consolidated the suits.

Along with Ketchum, Paul Farrell of Huntington represents Eastham. Josh Coffey of Huntington represents Howard.

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