Earlie Delaney arrived too late to Tuesday's meeting of the Philippi City Council to be placed on the agenda, crawling in a few minutes after the meeting was called to order.
But the Anmoore man had just crawled up two flights of stairs, literally, because City Hall does not have an operating elevator or any other working device to make the second-floor council chambers more accessible to the handicapped public. He also crawled down the hallway from the landing to the chambers because his crutches had been left at the bottom of the steps, and he had no other way to upright himself until he could get to a chair.
"I did that as a protest for the way they are treating handicapped people," Delaney said after catching his breath. "I've talked to people about the (Americans with Disabilities Act), but there's no teeth in the law, nothing to tell them they are in trouble."
Earlie Delaney takes crawls up the stairs in Philippi City Hall
Delaney had no need to take the slow, plodding route he did, said Philippi City Clerk Tammy Stemple. She said had Delaney given notice to the city leaders about his desire to attend the meeting, special accommodations would have been made. Delaney has attended council meetings in the past, and those meetings have been held in a city gymnasium or in the first-floor hallway. But Delaney said it is hard to hear the comments from the council members when the meeting is held in the gymnasium.
"We have tried to accommodate him to the best of everyone's ability," Stemple said.
The chair lift at City Hall has been shut down for more than a year because of a failed inspection.
The Inter-Mountain photo by John Wickline
Earlie Delaney takes it one step at a time at the Philippi City Hall Tuesday, a task made more difficult because there is no working chair lift nor an elevator in the building. That prompted the handicapped Delaney to crawl up the stairs to the city council chambers in protest.
"It's a dinosaur," Stemple said. "It took a while to even find parts for it. It has been repaired, but the tag has not been removed. The city manager has sent the paperwork to Charleston, and now we are waiting for an inspection."
Delaney lost a leg to diabetes in 1999 and later injured his back. He moves around with the aid of crutches. He said he decided to crawl up the 20 steps and two landings as an act of protest, but said it was for another handicapped person and not for himself.
The Delaneys have been involved in a dispute with a neighbor whom they say operates a diesel truck at all hours. They claim the fumes from the truck aggravate the health condition of Delaney's sister, but the city council ruled against the complaint. Since the family lodged the public complaint, Delaney said his sister received a citation for playing her radio in violation of a noise ordinance and was fined $7.
Delaney said he plans to discuss with the American Civil Liberties Union how his family is not receiving equal protection under the law, which he claims is a violation of his 14th Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution.
"We are sensitive to the needs of impaired citizens," City Manager Karen Weaver said. "We have accommodated him in the past. We are working with the (U.S. Department of Agriculture) to do upgrades to City Hall, and those issues would be addressed at that time."