Zacot 'not qualified to serve' on Keyser City Council
By Liz Beavers
Tribune Managing Editor
KEYSER - Although no official vote was taken, it would appear Keyser City Council member William Zacot is no longer seated on the council.
During the regular council meeting Wednesday, mayor Damon Tillman read the letter from Mineral County prosecuting attorney Cody Pancake which he has had in his possession for the past two weeks but declined to read at the last meeting.
In the letter, the prosecuting attorney stated his opinion that, “William Zacot is not currently qualified to serve in his position” due to his felony conviction for embezzlement.
Zacot, who serves as the city’s parks and recreation commissioner, is currently on probation for that conviction.
After hearing pleas from two different people to keep Zacot on the council based on the positive things he has done for the city’s children, the council went into executive session to discuss the issue.
Although Zacot originally left the council chambers, telling the council the decision “is on you guys,” he apparently came back to sit in on the closed door meeting because Tillman told the crowd afterward that once Zacot had heard the city attorney’s recommendation, “he got mad and left.”
“I had a long conversation today with our attorney,” a clearly upset Tillman told the crowd. “The attorney gave us his legal opinion that, as elected officials, we have to follow.
“We’re elected, and we have to follow the law.”
At that point an agitated Shawn Snyder, who had previously spoken in favor of keeping Zacot on the council, asked “What law?”
When Mayor Tillman asked Snyder not to “yell out,” Keyser Police chief Paul Sabin also attempted to quiet him.
Tillman then continued, citing West Virginia State Code 6-5-5, which city attorney Scott McClure had cited to him.
The code states: “No person convicted of treason, felony, or bribery in any election, before any court in or out of this state, shall, while such conviction remains unreversed, be elected or appointed to any office under the laws of this state; and, if any person, while holding such office, be so convicted, the office shall be thereby vacated.”
“You guys aren’t forced to do this,” Snyder said the council. “You don’t have to do it.”
“This is not fun; it’s not something we like doing,” Tillman said. “But we’re elected to do the right thing for the city.”
“This is not over!” Snyder said as he gathered his things and left the meeting. “You ain’t seen nothing yet!” he said as he exited the door.
Another resident who had also spoken passionately against removing Zacot from the council asked if anything could be done to keep him.
“You guys just can’t lose him,” she said. “We can’t lose him!”
Council member Jennifer Junkins suggested looking into keeping Zacot as a member of the Parks and Recreation Committee.
That way he could continue doing what he does now, but just not get paid as a council person, she said, adding, “It’s something we’d have to vote on and discuss.”
Mayor Tillman told the resident that Zacot could run for council again once he successfully completed his probation, but there seemed to be some question about that as well.
“Once you’re convicted, you’re convicted,” Sabin said, adding that Zacot would have to go through the process of having the felony expunged from his record.
“No, once he’s done his probation, he can run again,” Tillman strongly emphasized.
At that point Billy Meek moved to adjourn the meeting and Junkins seconded it.
No comments were made as to what the council’s next step might be.