WESTOVER, W.Va. (WBOY) – A former Westover city councilman, who was outspoken during controversies surrounding the city and its police department, has filed a federal lawsuit against the city, its former mayor and others.

After several federal civil rights lawsuits were filed against the city, alleging misconduct by city police officers, Ralph Mullins often sparred with former Mayor Dave Johnson, City Attorney Tim Stranko and other members of the council, over how the city and the police department were run.

Former Westover Mayor Dave Johnson

The disputes came to a head at a February 2022 Westover City Council meeting when Mullins and Johnson got into a heated argument over whether Mullins was allowed to record the council’s executive sessions. During the argument, Johnson pushed Mullins, causing a knee injury that required surgery, Mullins’ lawsuit alleges.

In April, the West Virginia State Police charged Johnson with misdemeanor battery, in relation to the incident.

In addition to that incident between Mullins and Johnson, the suit focuses on the “repeated unlawfully targeting and retaliation” of Mullins by Johnson, Stranko, City Clerk Sandy Weiss and council members Steve Andryzcik, Edie Viola, Gary Weber, Jeffery Friend and Duane Tatar, who are all named in the lawsuit.

The suit accuses the city and the individuals named of several violations of Mullins’ constitutional rights, assault, battery, slander, violating the West Virginia Whistleblower law and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Former Westover Police Chief Richard Panico

Mullins has asked for a jury trial and for compensatory, general and punitive damages, interests and attorney’s fees and costs.

You can read Mullins’ full lawsuit here. There are more than a dozen exhibits that were filed along with the lawsuit, including an affidavit from former Police Chief Richard Panico, in which he accuses Johnson of asking him to intimidate city council members and citizens, including Mullins; asking him to do things to benefit partners of Johnson; using physical force to intimidate others; and waging propaganda campaigns against those who go against him.

Upon filing the suit, Mullins issued a statement to 12 News:

Former Westover City Councilman Ralph Mullins

Until today there has never been an independent investigation and people held responsible for the numerous civil rights violations that have occurred in Westover during the last administration. Those holding a public office and a position of public trust should not be exempt from accountability by simply resigning or dismissing ones position. To the contrary, they should be held to even a higher standard than the average citizen whether they’re the mayor of a small town or the president of the United States. Those responsible for the abuses perpetrated upon the citizens of Westover and those responsible in covering them up need to be held to account.

Former Westover City Councilman Ralph Mullins

Both Mullins and Johnson’s terms ended in June of 2022.