KEYSER - Former Keyser City Council member Karol Ashenfelter, ousted last year by a 4-0 vote by her fellow council members, has filed a demand for settlement with the City of Keyser.

By Liz Beavers
lbeavers@newstribune.info
Tribune Managing Editor
KEYSER - Former Keyser City Council member Karol Ashenfelter, ousted last year by a 4-0 vote by her fellow council members, has filed a demand for settlement with the City of Keyser.
In a letter from Charles Town attorney Gregory A. Bailey, which was faxed to the City of Keyser Wednesday and will also be delivered by mail, Ashenfelter says the city violated her civil rights by retaliating against her and unlawfully removing her from office.
She is seeking $75,000 in settlement, or “is prepared to file a civil rights complaint against the town and involved council members.”
The council voted to remove Ashenfelter from office at the conclusion of a lengthy executive session on July 11, 2018. At the time, mayor Damon Tillman said the reason for the vote was “conduct unbecoming an elected official, slanderous remarks, and creating a hostile work environment.”
According to the letter from attorney Bailey, however, Ashenfelter feels the move was retaliatory.
“There is substantial evidence that the basis for removing Ms. Ashenfelter was in retaliation for her expressed complaints of serious fiscal misappropriation of town financial resources. Additionally, Ms. Ashenfelter objected to meetings between town officials that violated the West Virginia Open Governmental Proceedings Act.”
After Ashenfelter’s ouster, Mineral County prosecuting attorney Cody Pancake followed up on a complaint to his office and contacted the West Virginia Attorney General for an opinion on the action.
On March 29, 2019, attorney general Patrick Morrisey issued an opinion that Keyser’s action, which city officials said was in compliance with the city’s charter, was in fact not compliant with state law.
In his decision, Morrisey spelled out the state-mandated process of removing an elected official from office, which includes passing a resolution or accepting a petition signed by a qualified number of citizens, and taking the resolution or petition before a three-judge panel.
“Only the court has authority to remove an officer … upon satisfactory proof of the charges by clear and convincing evidence,” he said.
Morrisey went on to state, “It does not appear that the city council complied with the process.”
In a special meeting held on July 19, 2018, Mike Ryan was appointed to fill the seat vacated by Ashenfelter’s removal.
Mayor Tillman did not immediately return a call to his phone for comment Wednesday evening.