By MATT COMBS
RICHWOOD, W.Va. — Embattled Richwood Mayor Bob Henry Baber filed suit Monday against Richwood City Council members, the acting interim mayor and the state Auditor John McCuskey.
The situation between Baber and council has spiraled since Baber was asked at the Sept. 21 Richwood City Council meeting to resign his position due to questions of use of a state-issued P-card between February and July this year. He refused but later agreed to be put on paid administrative leave.
The alleged misuse of the P-card was based on Baber not being able to produce receipts for around $6,500.
According to a court document, Baber is claiming that all but $200 of those receipts have been found.
Baber quickly backed away from the agreement made Sept. 21 to place him on paid administrative leave, saying that he was emotionally distressed by being asked to step down in an earlier interview with The Register-Herald.
In an earlier interview, Baber said that after seeking advice from attorney Richie Robb, Robb advised Baber to do whatever he could do to hold onto the mayor’s seat, citing what he believed to be illegal actions by the city council.
At the Oct. 5 council meeting, Baber made an effort to preside, an effort quickly shot down by the city council and the Richwood City Police chief.
Baber was again in attendance at the Oct. 19 meeting of the city council, this time taking a seat in the audience.
During the proceedings, a contractor working on demolition at Richwood High School mentioned Baber, to which Baber stood up and after a period of time began to comment on the matter.
When Baber said that he would not be quieted, he was escorted out of the meeting by a Richwood Police officer.
According to court documents filed on Monday, Baber is alleging that the city council acted as a “quasi-judicial” entity in its handling of placing Baber on administrative leave.
Baber claims in the court document that the Sept. 21 actions of the council violate West Virginia Code 6-9A-4.
The mayor argues that the unexpected nature of the executive session called at that meeting precluded him from airing the nature of the allegations against him.
Baber goes on to argue that the actions of council on both Sept. 21 and Oct. 5 violate the Open Governmental Proceedings Act.
In the court documents, Baber asks for the administrative leave placed upon him to be removed, the decision of the city to hire a new legal team made during the Oct. 5 meeting to be annulled, a determination into the alleged violations of the Open Governmental Proceedings Act and his court fees to be reimbursed.
In his suit against the state auditor, Baber contends that the McCuskey has delayed his findings which has led council to “extralegal” actions.
Baber asks in the document that the Auditor’s Office complete its investigation and announce its findings immediately.
— Email: [email protected]; follow on Twitter @mattcombsRH
See more from The Register-Herald