Former city council candidate sues Morgantown for FOIA violations

By Kyla Asbury | Feb 17, 2017

MORGANTOWN – A former city council candidate is suing the City of Morgantown a second time, after he claims this time that it violated the Freedom of Information Act.

In his lawsuit, George Papandreas claims he submitted a lawful FOIA request with the city for the disclosure of public documents and information on Dec. 24, 2015, however, the defendant failed to respond, according to a complaint filed Feb. 10 in Monongalia Circuit Court.

Papandreas claims on Jan. 8, 2016, he filed a second FOIA request. On Jan. 15, 2016, he requested to review the information he had previously sought in the first FOIA request and was denied by the city’s attorney.

On Feb. 12, 2016, Papandreas received a large number of e-mails that were redacted and/or excluded identification of senders and/or recipients of the e-mails, according to the suit. He claims such information was critical in determining if the four council members subject to the removal petition interfered with city administration.

Papandreas claims he requested the information for the senders and/pr recipients on Feb. 15, 2016, and the city attorney informed him that it would have the information the following week, however, they have still never been disclosed to the plaintiff.

“As such, over one year after submitting a proper request under the WVFOIA, the plaintiff has still not been fully provided with the requested information, and has not been provided with any exemptions or valid legal justification for the defendant’s failure to disclose,” the complaint states.

Papandreas is seeking injunctive relief and an order that all redactions be removed from the previous partial disclosures submitted by the defendant. He is being represented by Sean W. Cook of Meyer Ford & Glasser.

In 2015, Papandreas filed a lawsuit seeking to have Mayor Marti Shamberger, Deputy Mayor William Kawecki and two city council members, Nancy Ganz and Jennifer Selin, removed from their positions.

A three-judge panel denied that petition last year.

Papendreas alleged the council members used their positions and influence on council to prevent the redistricting of the city’s fourth and seventh wards. He also contested a campaign e-mail sent by Kawecki prior to the most recent municipal election.

The three-judge panel found that the e-mail violation was “de minimis and does not warrant the draconian sanction of the respondents’ removal from office,” according to the order denying Papandreas’ petition.

The panel concluded that the facts of the case are not in dispute and, ultimately, “Papandreas has failed to prove that the acts rise to the level to justify removing from office officials who have been duly elected by the electorate.”

The three-judge panel included Judges John Lewis Marks Jr., Richard A. Facemire and David H Wilmoth.

Monongalia Circuit Court case number: 17-C-65

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