CHARLESTON – The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has ruled that Ansted’s mayor lawfully fired former Police Chief John Kiefer in 2014.
Kiefer had appealed the July 20, 2015, order by Fayette Circuit Court that had granted a motion for summary judgment, according to a Oct. 28 opinion.
Kiefer was employed as the police chief in July 2013 and was an at-will employee and on Aug. 3, 2014, Mayor Romie “Pete” Hobbs received a telephone call from Heath Whipkey, the only police officer employed by the town at the time and told Hobbs that Kiefer had purportedly fired him that morning and Hobbs told him to report to work.
The next day, Whipkey called Hobbs again and informed him that he could not find his patrol car in the town’s maintenance garage and that the keys to the other three vehicles were missing, according to the opinion. Hobbs went to the garage, where he confirmed they were missing and two days later, Hobbs was advised by maintenance employees that the missing patrol car was hidden in the woods behind Kiefer’s home.
Hobbs drove to Kiefer’s home and found the patrol car and, when he confronted Kiefer about the missing vehicle, Kiefer admitted that he had hidden the vehicle and taken the keys so that Whipkey could not go on patrol.
Kiefer had intentionally left the town without police protection and Hobbs immediately terminated his employment because he felt he could no longer trust his judgment and abilities, according to the opinion.
On Aug. 12, 2014, Kiefer filed a complaint in Fayette Circuit Court, alleging he was fired in response to a Freedom of Information Act request he filed seeking town financial statements for an investigation.
On May 11 2015, the town filed a motion for summary judgment. On July 20, 2015, the circuit court granted the town’s motion for summary judgment. Kiefer then appealed that order.
All five justices concurred in the decision.
Kiefer was represented by Michael T. Clifford.
Ansted is represented by Daniel R. Schuda.
W.Va. Supreme Court of Appeals case number: 15-0766