Flooding in West Virginia in June 2016
CHARLESTON – A three-judge panel confirmed the removal of Bob Henry Baber as Richwood's mayor July 20, stating that his behavior was the "epitome of an improper abuse" of political power.
The panel included Fayette Circuit Judge Paul Blake Jr., Randolph Circuit Judge David H. Wilmoth and Judge Robert E. Richardson of Greenbrier and Pocahontas counties.
The panel also noted that Baber's attempt at "trivializing his gain and exalting his selflessness, offers this panel no solace from this type of objectionable self-dealing conduct."
There were allegations made against Baber about misusing his local government-issued purchasing card, known as a P-Card. The panel ruled that Baber failed to follow the agreement he signed when he received the P-Card.
"Considering the allegations and evidence as a whole regarding the respondent's delegation of his P-Card, expenditure of city funds through the use of the respondent's P-Card and often times unauthorized, questionable expenditures, this panel is greatly troubled by the apparent nonchalant attitude taken by the respondent in relation to the expenditure of public funds during a devastating time in the history of the city of Richwood," the panel stated in the order.
The panel also noted that the city paid power bills on a property owned by Baber in July, August and September 2016. At some point after the June 2016 flood, flood items were moved from another location to the property owned by Baber.
The panel wrote that the first bill reimbursed was for electricity used before the flood even happened. Baber had argued keeping the donated items dry with dehumidifiers and fans ran up the electricity in the property.
“The first bill that was reimbursed in total had a due date of July 5, 2016,” the panel wrote. “This alone would indicate that payment/reimbursement was made for power that was used before the arrival and storage of the donated items, and even more significantly before the flood occurred.”
The property owned by Baber had an apartment on the top floor, where his daughter was living.
The panel ruled there was sufficient evidence to establish that Baber had committed one or more of the alleged violations and that he should be removed from office.
Richie Robb, Baber’s attorney, said he communicated briefly with Baber over the weekend but wasn't aware of an email Baber had sent to media outlets regarding the panel's decision.
Baber's email statement said the city had broken him financially, but that he was not a broken man and that he is stronger than what passes for governance in Richwood.
"I don’t know that I can add anything," Robb said in an interview with The West Virginia Record. "I don’t know what his plans are."
Robb said the hearing before the panel was held in June.
"Having been involved in the situation 10 or 11 months, I’ve got a pretty good feel for where the ruling was," Robb said. "Doesn’t mean I agree with it, but that’s how it goes. I don’t know whether he will appeal this or not."
Robb said it was his understanding that this type of action has a pretty short window of time to appeal.