CHARLESTON - The Circuit Court of Taylor County’s granting of summary judgment and issuance of mandamus to a democrat who lost a county commissioner election and then sought the seat anyway by filing suit was recently reversed by the state Supreme Court.
The court, in its Oct. 17 per curiam opinion, held that “while mandamus proceedings can be appropriate in a pre-election situation, a very different policy is in place when the election occurs” in explaining its decision to reverse and remand the lower court’s ruling.
The circuit court had initially issued a writ of mandamus filed by democrat John Withers removing Taylor incumbent County Commissioner Tony Veltri from his post after winning a 2010 reelection to the seat. Veltri had been serving at the post since 1992.
Withers, a democrat, filed suit, claiming Veltri lived in the Western Magisterial District and was thereby not constitutionally qualified to run for the Tygart Magisterial District post despite Veltri’s election victory and subsequent swearing into office.
Veltri, who has lived in the same Grafton house since 1944, had previously run for various public office positions, including his first county commissioner attempt in 1992.
According to court documents, prior to each election, Veltri filed candidate papers verified by county officials designating him as a representative of Tygart District. However, in the 1980s, Veltri’s home had been in the middle of redistricting dispute that temporarily placed his home in the Western District.
In explaining its decision to reverse the lower court decision, the high court wrote that “Mr. Withers sought to develop facts to disqualify Commissioner Veltri through discovery after he had filed his petition for a writ of mandamus.
“Evidence was taken, including depositions, document discover, and two rounds of summary judgment briefing. Mr. Withers used this evidence to create his case, which shows that the right clearly did not exist at the time the action was filed. Rather, Mr. Withers sought to use the mandamus proceeding, itself, to establish his case. Thus, Mr. Withers was unable to show a clear legal right to the relief sought at the time his proceeding was instituted.”