West Virginia Record

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Former Westover employees sue over firings

By Justin Anderson | Jul 29, 2009

MORGANTOWN -- Two former Westover city employees are suing the city and mayor David Johnson, claiming they were fired so Johnson could hire friends and political supporters and because they complained about alleged wrongdoing within the city's operations.

Jeff Hunt and Cecil Welsh filed a lawsuit in Monongalia Circuit Court July 1.

Hunt, 47, and Welsh, 54, had a combined 23 years service with the city in the street department, and sanitary and sewer board, the complaint says. Both had good work records, they claim.

According to the complaint, when Johnson was elected mayor in July 2008 "he bragged that he planned to fire several city employees, including the plaintiffs, which he did, and replace them with his friends and supporters."

The plaintiffs claim they were targeted for several protected actions they undertook while employed by the city.

The plaintiffs say they supported continuing the city's sanitary and sewer board, buut Johnson opposed it. Hunt had filed workers' compensation claims while working for the city and Welsh had filed insurance claims for his heart condition.

Hunt claims that last yera he reported problems with the city's sewer system and that the city was operating an illegal garbage transfer station to the state Department of Environmental Protection after he says he reported the matters to the city and Johnson to no avail.

Both plaintiffs say that they complained at a city council meeting about the paving of an alley behind a council person's home. They say they also complained about missing manhole covers and wiring the city allegedly bought with state grant funds.

Hunt and Welsh add that they complained about Johnson allegedly bringing pornographic materials into the workplace and using a computer in the city garage for personal use.

As a result, they claim that Johnson began writing them up for "false" disciplinary violations and fired both of them on in March 2009.

They add that the city and mayor falsely told The Dominion Post newspaper that Welsh was fired for committing an act of violence against a co-worker.

Hunt claims Johnson changed his payday from Thursday to Friday in retaliation for his taking a personal day and also gave him an unsafe city vehicle to use. Welsh claims that Johnson threatened to have him beaten up.

Hunt claims that he and Johnson got into a fight at a bar in Westover the year before Johnson got elected during which Johnson fractured Hunt's ribs.

The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory damages on counts of violation of state whistleblower laws, defamation, retaliatory discharge and violation of the state Human Rights Act.

Edward R. Kohout is representing the plaintiffs.

Monongalia Circuit Court case number: 09-C-460

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