Justices won't hear appeal of Dunbar mayor

By Kelly Holleran | Feb 10, 2009

CHARLESTON -- The state Supreme Court has opted not to hear an appeal of former Dunbar Mayor Roger Wolfe.

CHARLESTON -- The state Supreme Court has opted not to hear an appeal of former Dunbar Mayor Roger Wolfe.

"I'm very pleased that it's over with," Dunbar City Council member Michelle Wilshere said. "I hope this is the last step. It's time for the city to move on."

Wolfe, who filed the appeal after a three-judge panel decided to remove him from office in October, thinks things may have turned out differently if he had been allowed in the courtroom.

"I feel like if I would have been able to be at my trial and to present some more defense on my behalf, things would have been a lot different," he said.

Arguments between Wolfe and Dunbar City Council members have been ongoing since 2006 when Wolfe attempted to get pay raises for four city department heads. His efforts failed, so Wolfe decided to change the status of the department heads from salaried to hourly. That way the employees could earn more in overtime pay.

Following the incident, Dunbar City Council members took Wolfe to Kanawha Circuit Court. Judge Paul Zakaib ruled that city council ultimately controlled the finances and ordered Wolfe to stop spending money without council approval.

Wolfe appealed the case to state Supreme Court.

Amid the legal battles, six of the eight Dunbar City Council members filed papers to remove Wolfe from office. After a two-day trial, a three-judge panel ordered the mayor to be removed from office on Oct. 30.

In his appeal to the Supreme Court, Wolfe's lawyer argued that one of the judges on the panel was not from Wolfe's district and could not vote to remove him from office. He also argued that Wolfe did not take any of the money for himself.

"Everybody knew where the money went," Wolfe said.

Among money Wolfe spent that council members opposed was $500 on the Dunbar Little League, $850 on an annual football team banquet and $500 on a dance studio. Wolfe argues all the expenses were legal because of a June 2, 2003, resolution that allowed him to spend up to $1,000. The money came from a hotel/motel tax, he said.

"The city council said the Dunbar Little League and football teams provide no services to our community, and I totally disagree," he said.

While Wolfe says he respects the court's decision, he contends he did nothing wrong.

"All the decisions that I made, I had the best interest of the citizens, whether young or old, in mind," he said. "I didn't do anything impeachable. The question is whether those actions I took, which I believe are completely legal, somehow constitutes such drastic actions that the only remedy was to impeach me from office. I don't think they do."

Wolfe, who is running again for Dunbar mayor in the town's next election, talked while hanging up signs for his re-election bid.

"People have called me and wanted signs, so we're putting out signs," he said.

But Wilshere said she hopes citizens remember the court's decision and how Wolfe acted while in office before casting their vote.

"I would hope that the citizens of Dunbar will realize he was given the privilege once of being mayor," she said. "Hopefully they won't afford him that privilege again. We're in good hands with Jack Yeager."

Yeager was appointed in November to fill Wolfe's spot and currently serves as Dunbar mayor.

"I hope this puts that chapter in Dunbar's history behind us and we can move on and continue our rebuilding of the city for the sake of the people of Dunbar," Yeager told the Charleston Daily Mail.

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