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Clerical error may unseat Upshur board member

BUCKHANNON, W.Va. — Upshur County Board of Education member Robbie Martin likely will have to resign due to a clerical error in the Upshur County Clerk’s Office.

In 2014, Martin was elected to Magisterial District 2. He has two years remaining in his term.

However, The Inter-Mountain has learned Martin was erroneously placed in District 2 when he should have been registered in District 1. No more than two members can reside in the same district. Board members Greenbrier Almond and Teresa Bellamy both already hold District 1 seats.

“The County Clerk’s Office figured out when they were verifying addresses for the filing period that started Monday that they had made a mistake,” Martin said.

Upshur County Clerk Debbie Thacker Wilfong’s office contacted Upshur County Schools Superintendent Roy Wager about the mistake.

“Mr. Wager informed me that the County Clerk’s office had made a mistake with the district that I was in when I ran for the Board of Education,” Martin said. “Now, this mistake was overlooked at the time by two deputy clerks and was finalized by the county clerk.”

Thacker Wilfong said it was an honest mistake. The Clerk’s Office attempts to verify that all information is correct, but this mistake was missed.

“He didn’t realize it; we didn’t realize it. I take the blame for it,” she said. “It definitely has opened up a can of worms, but it was an honest mistake. What’s happened has happened, unfortunately. We just have to move on from here.”

Martin said he plans to resign without hesitation as soon as he receives an official document from the County Clerk’s Office.

“I’m not going to pursue any repercussions. I will resign gracefully. I don’t want to cause trouble. I just want to receive an official statement from the County Clerk’s Office for documentation purposes,” he said.

Wager and Thacker Wilfong both said the error has created numerous unanswered questions.

“We’re waiting on the lawyers to tell us what to do. We know the mistake’s been made but we don’t know a solution yet,” Wager said.

Wager confirmed Martin likely will have to resign, which is extremely unfortunate.

“That’s going to cause some problems. It’s never happened like this anywhere in the state. We don’t know a solution to it yet. There’s no precedent for this. We’re waiting to see what the Attorney General, the Secretary of State and the Upshur County Prosecuting Attorney tell us,” Wager said.

State law allows the Board to appoint someone to a vacant term within 45 days. Barring that, a special election would be required, Martin said.

“I believe that Tom Davis was the only other person to run in District 2 in 2014. That would make him the most likely person to appoint,” Martin said. “And if you think about it, he has been slighted by this whole thing because he should have won the seat in the first place.”

Or, Thacker Wilfong said, it’s possible the seat could be added to the ballot in time for the general election.

Two board seats are eligible for reelection during the 2016 election cycle. Additionally, Board President Teresa Bellamy plans to resign at the end of the school year due to a move, Martin said. So, with Martin’ vacancy, that leaves the possibility of four entirely new board members.

“It would be a very weak board; no one would know what they were doing until they all got up to speed,” Martin said.

In addition to the tangled mess created by the error, Martin said he feels his last two years of work have been invalidated.

“I hate it. I love being on the board. I just love helping out the kids in this community. I just hate it that I’m going to have to resign,” he said.

And the question remains whether any of Martin’s votes over the last two years are valid, particularly those taken during instances when he was one of only three members constituting a quorum.

“Anytime I was the third vote, all of those decisions would most likely become invalid. They would most likely have to revote on all those. There’s been multiple times when there’s only been three of us and I was the third member. It’s a huge can of worms,” Martin said.

Martin said he intends to run again for a seat on the Board of Education at the earliest opportunity.

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