BUCKHANNON, W.Va. — Mayor Richard Edwards’ alleged misuse of a gas card wasn’t the only concern among angry citizens who attended a special City Council meeting on Monday.
His history in his former home of Bexar County, Texas, and his interpersonal dealings with city residents also were among the top complaints against the embattled mayor.
Several angry citizens also attended the meeting at City Hall, where Council members were set to discuss “personnel” issues. Some of the citizens had “anti-Edwards” protest signs. Others wore badges with the “no symbol” (a circle and diagonal line) over Edwards’ picture.
When Edwards called the meeting to order and the Council immediately went into a two-hour executive session, the audience was forced to leave the building. The back door leading to Council Chambers was locked and, later, the blinds were closed. Several audience members complained about being forced to wait outside with temperatures in the mid-40s.
However, they had much to say about Edwards, his past and his dealings with the public.
When he came to Upshur County, Edwards left behind unfinished business in Texas that is a cause for concern among many Buckhannon residents.
Around 3:20 in the afternoon on June 6, 2001, agents of the Alamo Area Narcotics Task Force obtained written consent from Edwards to search his home at 142 Starlight Terrace.
According to a police report filed by Officer E. Slater, officers received information that Edwards was growing marijuana at his residence.
Slater obtained permission to enter a nearby property and, from that observation point, was able to observe several marijuana plants in black pots placed near the rear of Edwards’ residence, according to the report.
Slater and other task force agents made contact with Edwards in the front yard of his residence and told him why they were there, according to the report. Slater asked Edwards for permission to search the property, advising him he had the right to deny the officers access.
Edwards told the agents that he and his wife occupied the residence and his wife was at work, according to Slater’s report. Edwards then read and signed a consent to search.
During the search, agents found and recovered 15 marijuana plants from the back yard and one plant from the laundry room of the residence, according to the report. They also found grow lights, timers, a pump and a power strip, all used to promote the growth of the plant in the laundry room.
Edwards was the sole adult supervising three small children, and said no one was available to take care of them. The agents allowed Edwards to remain at the residence but advised him charges would be filed.
According to the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office, two warrants were issued for Edwards arrest but he was never picked up. An indictment on drug charges also was returned.
Edwards and his family left Texas and moved to Upshur County. Edwards became deeply involved in the community. He filmed local government proceedings for the public access channel and was even involved on several local boards, including parks and recreation.
In 2012, Edwards was pulled over and a records check revealed the outstanding warrants from Bexar County.
Edwards was arrested, charged with being a fugitive from justice and released on bond. He elected to exercise his right to fight the extradition process back to Texas. The process involves obtaining a Governor’s Warrant to secure extradition.
According to court documents from the time, the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office indicate officials were unwilling to pursue extradition.
The local fugitive from justice charge against Edwards was dropped. However, the original drug charges and the arrest warrant remain active in Texas.
Since 2012, Edwards has become even more deeply involved in the local community. In 2014, he was elected city recorder. This occurred despite several media reports two years prior detailing Edwards’ local arrest and the trouble in Texas.
Edwards later was appointed mayor when Kenneth Davidson announced his retirement.
According to an official from the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office, the decision to pursue extradition is made on a case-by-case basis. Generally speaking, cases in which there is a harmed victim take precedence, the official said. As a result, there still are currently no plans to extradite Edwards. However, he would be arrested on the original charges should he ever return to Texas.
Edwards has said he did not flee San Antonio to escape charges, and he did not find out about the warrants until he was already in West Virginia.
Dallas Morning News blogger Hannah Wise recently penned an article on Edwards, as have numerous other media outlets, including local publications.
This history, along with some personal interactions with Edwards, have caused concern for Dorinda Grumbine and her husband, Ronnie Grumbine, as well as Mike and Jo Skidmore.
The Skidmores own rental property on Third Avenue near Edwards’ residence; the Grumbines manage the property.
“It’s outrageous when you have an active fugitive warrant (and) you’re running for mayor,” Mike Skidmore said. “It’s amazing they’re getting away with it.”
Dorinda Grumbine said Edwards accosted her during the last City Council meeting because she “blindsided him” at the meeting before that with questions about an animal control ordinance Council was working on.
“The minute he saw us he came running down. He was being very vocal. By the time he got in front of us, his teeth were gritted, his face was beet-red. He looked like a madman; he looked like a wild man. His fists were clenched at his sides. He was mad,” Dorinda Grumbine said. “He said, ‘I don’t ever want you to blindside me again like you did last Council meeting.'”
Dorinda Grumbine also alleges Edwards has been rude to her tenants and has threatened to erect a “sidewalk to nowhere” on Third Avenue, which no one wants and would serve only to obstruct the driveway of one of her tenants.
During the meeting on Monday, Edwards apologized to Dorinda Grumbine, saying he is not a very politically correct individual all the time. However, he said he did not believe he was being threatening toward Grumbine.
Councilwoman Robyn Riggs-Simons said she witnessed the incident in which the mayor was allegedly verbally abusive toward Dorinda Grumbine. The Councilwoman said she personally followed Dorinda Grumbine into the bathroom, where she found her in tears.
Caiden Cowger is running for City Council in the upcoming election. He said he has issues with Edwards, including his past in Texas, but also with other aspects of his history.
Cowger alleges Edwards does not have the education he proclaims to have. On his social media sites, Edwards reported he attended the University of Texas and the University of the Incarnate Word.
However, Cowger said he personally contacted the University of the Incarnate Word, where officials reported having no record of Richard Wayne Edwards, the name that appears on Edwards’ birth certificate. Cowger said he personally checked the University of Texas Online Registry, which had no record of Edwards.