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Attorney appointed in federal suit

December 20, 2013
By Katie Kuba - Upshur Bureau Chief , The Inter-Mountain

BUCKHANNON - County Administrator Megan Pomeroy on Thursday announced that the Upshur County Commission's insurance carrier has selected a Morgantown-based lawyer to represent the commission in a federal civil lawsuit filed against it earlier this month.

Pomeroy said the commission's carrier, West Virginia Counties Risk Pool, has retained Kala Sowers of the law firm Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe as counsel in a Dec. 2 suit filed by David Taylor against the Upshur County Commission as a political subdivision.

The six-count complaint also names current commissioners JC Raffety and Donnie Tenney, former commissioner Creed Pletcher, and attorney Timothy P. Stranko individually as defendants.

Sowers will serve as counsel for Raffety, Tenney, Pletcher and the commission, but Stranko has retained another attorney, Pomeroy said.

Taylor, a former candidate for Upshur County sheriff, filed suit in the Elkins office of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia. He is representing himself in court.

He claims that current and former commissioners and Stranko, their attorney at the time, conspired to violate his constitutional rights in events surrounding the May 2012 primary election.

Taylor finished second to Mike Kelley in the May 8, 2012, Republican primary for sheriff.

His complaint deals with events beginning in March 2012 that relate to the commission's handling of the contested sheriff's primary race.

Taylor unsuccessfully challenged the outcome in the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals in October 2012.

In the lawsuit, Taylor charges Stranko and the commission with one state law claim - negligence - and five federal claims, including denial of due process by violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments; civil conspiracy to violate rights; conspiracy to interfere with civil rights; neglect to prevent conspiracy against civil rights; and denial of the right to vote and participate in a fairly conducted election in violation of the First and Fourteenth amendments.

At Thursday's commission meeting, commissioner Troy Brady, who is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, recused himself from the discussion about who would represent the commission in the suit.

After Brady left the room, Pomeroy said the commission was served with the lawsuit one week ago, on Dec. 12.

"We were served last Thursday as you know, and after that I made contact with our insurance carrier to make them aware of the lawsuit," Pomeroy said. "And they have elected to retain on our behalf Kala Sowers with Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe.

"They (W.Va. Counties Risk Pool) are working on that, and I have been in contact with her on your behalf, and we'll hopefully have a meeting with her on Jan. 9 at our next commission meeting. I just wanted to make you aware of the action I have taken."

Tenney thanked Pomeroy.

"We will trust her (Kala Sowers) to serve us well and to file the proper paperwork in a timely manner so we can get this issue resolved," Tenney said.

Sowers and Stranko, one of the defendants also named in the federal civil suit, did not immediately return phone messages left for them Thursday.

In other business, the commission voted to accept the resignation of E911 dispatcher Lisa Unger effective Dec. 28.

Members also voted to sponsor the West Virginia Strawberry Festival in the amount of $350 at the request of Upshur County Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Laura Meadows. The commission will be listed as one of four sponsors on the back of the 2014 West Virginia Strawberry Festival brochure. A total of 20,000 will be printed and distributed via the CVB.

Contact Katie Kuba by email at Follow her on Twitter at IMT_Kuba.



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