Keesee calls for city council action on mayor’s criminal charges
A speaker continued to call for action on the criminal charges against Mayor Travis Copenhagen at the Alderson City Council meeting on October 14.
Local attorney Ryan Keesee recently spoke at the special September 20 city council meeting, which listened to callers about the charges against Copenhagen – burglary, conspiracy, child neglect and petty assault.
Keesee returned to council on October 14 with questions.
“My question and my comments [tonight] do not concern the conduct of the mayor, ”Keesee said. “This meeting, we covered it. Outrage, the city was not happy to continue to flaunt the rule of law by our mayor. This comment is for the board. Why haven’t you done anything? … Have a vote. To take a position. Yes or no. So that the voters of this city know where you, as councilors, you stand on the behavior of our mayor. This will be very important when this council seeks re-election in 2023. “
He criticized the council after the special session.
“We last met at the community center to discuss the charges currently pending against our mayor, Mr Copenhagen,” Keesee said. “Comments have been made, solicited from the community, and that’s all that has been done. Nothing else was done that night at that meeting. The topic of this meeting was the actions of the mayor and what the city council wanted to do about it. The town hall did nothing.
During the special council meeting, city attorney Grady Ford explained that council can pass a motion calling for the removal, but does not have the power to order the removal.
“The board has already asked me to investigate how options are possible with respect to these issues,” said Ford. “I have prepared a legal note detailing some of the options the board may have in the situation. … The council can adopt a motion, [but] they do not have the power to dismiss the mayor. They can pass this judgment, but the only way to reduce and remove an elected official is [this prescribed way]. They can propose anything but in the absence of agreement of the elected, [the council cannot single-handedly remove the mayor.] It’s the law. The council cannot resign the mayor [directly]. “
According to West Virginia State Code 6-6-7, elected officials can only be removed for official misconduct, dereliction of duty, or incompetence. There are several parties who can make this decision.
“Who can initiate these suppression actions? Under the same section of the code, one is the council, the governing body. … The second is the county or town attorney. … And finally, if an appropriate number of qualified petitioners apply for revocation under this law. Qualified petitioners are defined as people who voted in the previous election. You have to hit a certain threshold … and in a class four town like Alderson, you have to get the lesser of 50 [registered voters] or 10% of registered voters [20 voters out of the 200 who voted in the last particular election]. “
From there, the case would be reviewed by judges at several levels.
“He would be reviewed by the circuit judge in Greenbrier County or Monroe County to see if he reached the level where he would go forward,” said Ford. “… A panel of three judges would serve as an adjudicator, an investigator, essentially a trial to determine whether or not these allegations constituted… were official grounds for dismissal.
If the council decides not to go ahead with the appeal, a petition with more than 120 Alderson voters calling for the impeachment of Copenhagen has also circulated in the city, according to organizer Jennifer Fry.
Keesee did not offer a specific recommendation to the board, but called for all action.
“The published agenda for the day said that this council will not take any action that is not on the agenda, and I will say right away that I have no intention of this council taking action on this. which I am about to say, because it is not on the agenda. Agenda. But I will comment on it. … I don’t mean you should do something. That you should start proceedings to dismiss Copenhagen as mayor, but you haven’t had a vote to decide whether or not to do it. It should be on the agenda before a meeting before the council of this city, to take a position one way or another.
He also hinted that some action could have taken place before the adjournment of the special meeting.
“I remember attending this meeting and it was adjourned when a council member wanted to speak. Council quickly adjourned before this council member could speak. I believe there was going to be a motion going forward that there would be a vote on whether to go ahead with the prosecution of Mr. Copenhagen or not. The vote did not take place. The motion was not allowed to go.
Of the four board members present, none confirmed that this was the case. After the meeting, missing board member Charlie Lobban did not respond to a request for comment on Keesee’s remarks.
After Keesee spoke, Copenhagen called for a motion to adjourn the meeting. The board sat quietly for almost 30 seconds before another caller asked an unrelated question. No further comments were offered.
When asked to comment after the special meeting, Copenhagen provided a letter from his lawyer, John Bryan.
“I am counsel for Travis Lee Copenhaver with respect to the aforementioned criminal action currently pending in Greenbrier County Magistrates’ Court, West Virginia. Accordingly, I advised him not to make any public or private statement to any person or entity regarding the charges. It is a matter of routine in any ongoing criminal case.
As always, the accused in an ongoing criminal case in the United States is innocent until proven guilty. These are guarantees under state and federal constitutions. My client absolutely maintains his innocence and is convinced that after enjoying the due process required by the Constitution, he will be justified in the allegations. As this process unfolds, my client will continue to serve as Mayor of the Town of Alderson, as he has for the past eight and a half years. He resigned as a municipal judge in the town of Alderson, until the outstanding charges were resolved.
“Any questions on this matter can be directed to my office. Thank you for your patience. My client looks forward to spending his day in court and being able to put this difficult time behind him. “