Embattled Salem mayor loses appeal in residency fight - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Embattled Salem mayor loses appeal in residency fight

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SALEM, WV -

The state Supreme Court of Appeals has affirmed a lower court decision that found the city of Salem within its rights to seek the ouster of Mayor Donald Stamm over residency questions.

The high court denied Stamm's appeal of a Harrison County Circuit Court order rejecting his petition for a writ of prohibition that would have forced city officials to abandon efforts to oust him because he lives outside city limits.

Stamm was elected to council in June of 2011 and took office July 1, after which he was elected mayor. The following month, however, council served him with notice of forfeiture "on the basis he was no longer a resident of the city."

After hearing arguments Oct. 2, a circuit judge ordered the two sides to proceed with a charter-mandated public hearing.

"At the hearing, testimony was taken and evidence was presented regarding (Stamm's) residency," the justices wrote. "Salem City Council formally determined (he) didn't live within the city limits and, therefore, forfeited his office."

Stamm had argued state code spells out the only valid grounds for removal from office – misconduct, malfeasance, incompetence, neglect of duty or gross immorality, none of which apply in his case. The high court disagreed, however, saying Salem's charter, "which provides a mechanism for forfeiture of office, should be the controlling authority."

They also pointed out Stamm "has other opportunities to seek judicial review."

"The city charter allows for petitioner to first make his case with the community to prove whether he is a resident," they wrote in the memorandum decision. "After that he can file a request for declaratory judgment with the Harrison County Circuit Court as provided by the charter. Petitioner will not be damaged or prejudiced in any way that is not correctable on appeal because he still has the opportunity to seek judicial review."

Stamm deferred comment to his attorney, who was unavailable.