CHARLESTON – Charleston officials are planning to settle a lawsuit filed last year by homeless people living in a makeshift “Tent City” in below-freezing temperatures who alleged their possessions were trashed.
A hearing was scheduled for Aug. 25 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia before District Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr. to discuss a mediation agreement that was reached in July.
As part of the settlement, the city agreed to create a $20,000 fund for people who have claimed to have lost property when the encampment was taken down in January 2016.
The city will also create an outdoor storage facility for homeless people to store their personal items.
On Jan. 19, 2016, Mayor Danny Jones ordered police to remove the encampment of homeless people that were on the west bank of the Elk River. The encampment was on private property owned by Waste Management, but had been there for several years.
Terry Cutright and John Wilson filed the lawsuit on behalf of themselves and other residents against Jones, Charleston and the police department on July 14, 2016.
Jones personally supervised Charleston Police Department and the city’s agents as the “rousted plaintiffs from Tent City, evicted them, looked through Plaintiffs’ belongings and seized and placed those belongings into trash compactor trucks, which immediately compacted and destroyed those belongings,” the complaint states.
The plaintiffs claim there were no exigent circumstances justifying the eviction without notice or opportunity for hearing, or search and seizure of their belongings.
The defendants failed to comply with requirements of the police manual when they ordered and carried out the compaction and destruction of the plaintiffs’ property immediately after seizing it on Jan. 19, 2016, according to the suit.
The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants violated their rights and caused them damages.
The plaintiffs and the class are represented by Samuel B. Petsonk, Gary M. Smith and Lydia C. Milnes of Mountain State Justice.
The defendants are represented by Kimberly M. Bandy and Karen Tracy McElhinny of Shuman McCuskey & Slicer; and Charleston City Attorney Paul D. Ellis.
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia case number: 2:16-cv-06346