CARPENDALE - In an unprecedented joint meeting of the Carpendale and Ridgeley town councils Thursday, the Carpendale officials announced they would be rescinding their letter of termination for police coverage from the Ridgeley Police Department.


By Liz Beavers
lbeavers@newstribune.info
Tribune Managing Editor
CARPENDALE - In an unprecedented joint meeting of the Carpendale and Ridgeley town councils Thursday, the Carpendale officials announced they would be rescinding their letter of termination for police coverage from the Ridgeley Police Department.
Carpendale had previously given a 60-day notice in a letter dated Nov. 25 that they would be terminating the contract as of Jan. 31, 2020, due to some complaints which Carpendale mayor Casey Lambert said they had received about Ridgeley Police chief Jake Ryan.
The decision set off a storm of comments on social media and resulted in a capacity crowd in Carpendale Town Hall Thursday for what Lambert said was probably the first time the town governments had met together for any purpose.
The officials sat in the front of the room facing each other, except for Ridgeley Council member Don McFarland, who sat in the back of the room with the audience.
Lambert chaired the meeting, asking the officials in the beginning if they wanted to go into executive session to discuss the issue. Ridgeley Council member Duke Lantz, however, asked that the discussion be kept in public session for the sake of transparency.
Ryan was present for the meeting and voiced no concern about the discussion being public.
Lambert then began by reading a statement noting that the decision to terminate the contract had originally been made due to some complaints he had received about Ryan.
Lantz noted later in the meeting, however, that Ridgeley had only received one complaint about the chief.
“We’ve only had one complaint. It’s hard to discipline an officer when he’s had only one complaint in three years,” he said.
Carpendale Council member Mary Jo Hinton noted that the contract signed between the two towns had specific instructions on how complaints should be handled, but she felt neither she nor any of the Carpendale or Ridgeley officials had been following the stipulations in the document.
“It specifically says the mayor of Carpendale will meet with the mayor of Ridgeley to discuss any complaints,” she said, noting that has not happened.
“When you get right down to it, the contract states everything was to go through the mayor of Ridgeley,” she continued. “The mayor of Carpendale was to say, ‘This is what we want to see happen,’ and that hasn’t happened.”
Hinton also said that, rather than the two towns communicate about any problems, the issues were taken to social media and that escalated the misunderstandings.
“Things got out of hand and snowballed on us,” she said. “Social media is not a way to govern your town,” she said.
When Lambert brought up the issue about Ryan not having been to the West Virginia State Police Academy, Lantz noted that when the state passed the law requiring officers to be trained, Ryan was already an officer and he and then-chief Mike Miller were grandfathered in under the law. For that reason, he can still legally work in law enforcement, with the exception that he cannot write speeding tickets.
Ridgeley mayor Mark Jones said, however, it was still a possibility that he could be sent to the academy.
“I will say it’s  not out of the picture,” he said.
At one point Lantz asked if Carpendale would be willing to help pay a portion of the cost to send Ryan to the academy, but the officials did not pursue any further discussion.
Carpendale Council member Butch Armentrout, who was serving as mayor at the time the contract was originally signed in 2008, explained that his purpose for wanting law enforcement coverage was to combat the drug problem and also to deal with some domestic disputes which were on the rise at the time.
“At the time, I was not interested in a lot of speeding tickets,” he said. “I wanted to clean up the drugs.”
After some further discussion, Lambert proposed and the Carpendale Council agreed to rescind their letter and allow the contract for coverage to continue until it concludes on June 30, 2020,
In the meantime, the two councils will work together to come up with a better contract.