WESTOVER, W.Va. – Westover City Council met Monday evening with several items on its agenda, but as has been the case for some time now, the focus turned to allegations related to the city’s police department and Mayor Dave Johnson.
Councilman Ralph Mullins, who has been at odds with the mayor and city attorney Tim Stranko, spoke about the controversy and called for Stranko to resign. Mullins addressed what he would do with any evidence he has access to: “Any law enforcement agency or investigative body, independent investigative body, I will turn over every single shred of evidence. But, to the council, no. They are complicit. To our city attorney, no. He has also shown us that he’s not going to relay serious accusations against our mayor.” Mullins made a motion for an independent investigation, but his motion did not receive a second.
Councilman Duane Tatar explained that he has heard all of the allegations, but he said he has not been presented with evidence of the allegations. If he is, he would be in favor of the investigation, Tatar said. “Are you going to allow an investigation when you have nothing before you other than accusations and innuendos and a tape that is one sided against the mayor, that we all know that that person has a vendetta against? Give me something to hold, to grab a hold of, and I will second that motion,” Tatar explained.
During the public comment period, several citizens also spoke about the continued controversy. One person demanded that Stranko resign or be fired. Another accused members of council of misuse of taxpayers’ money and fraud. That citizen said he will be taking his evidence to the state attorney general and the Office of Inspector General. A third person said that the other council members, “who have allowed this situation to fester, should follow the mayor’s lead” and not run again. Last week, 12 News learned that Johnson has decided not to seek another term.
The council went into executive session to discuss personnel matters. After coming out of the executive session, council took no action.
12 News learned that the session was related to possible disciplinary action against embattled police Lt. Aaron Dalton, who has been on paid administrative leave since August 2020. A disciplinary recommendation was made by the city’s police chief, which Johnson approved, our staff was told. The officer has an opportunity to appeal the recommendation to a three-member police peer review board. The board is made up of one officer of the same rank and two others. The peer review board will hear the case and either endorse the disciplinary action or reject it. That decision can be appealed to the civil service commission. The civil service decision can be appealed to the circuit court.
In other action at the meeting, two people applied for appointment to an empty seat on council, with Jeffrey Friend being chosen. One council member was not present for the vote, Mullins abstained and the rest voted in favor of Friend’s appointment.