Bob Henry Baber testified before a three-judge panel Friday regarding his impeachment as mayor Richwood.
Baber’s attorney introduced a Motion to Dismiss, but the judges denied that motion.
Attorneys for Richwood introduced their own Motion requesting the judges rule without a full trial, based on the documents provided. The judges determined there was not sufficient evidence and requested testimony and documentation about several areas of the charges against Baber.
Baber took the stand for hours, explaining his actions as mayor. Though first he was asked to explain his role as Incident Commander for the 2016 floods, before he was sworn in as mayor. This was a role, he was told, were his hours could be reimbursed by FEMA.
The mayor also answered a litany of questions about his spending with the city’s p-card, including charges Baber authorized but didn’t actually purchase himself. Several city employees made purchases using Baber’s p-card. His attorney says this is allowed according to the city’s rules, but attorneys hired by the city say it is not.
Jared Tully, representing Richwood, also grilled Baber on the fact that he often made purchases without explicit approval of City Council. Baber maintains Council was always aware of his charges, even if they didn’t know about the charge ahead of time.
A three-judge panel will hear the case regarding Bob Henry Baber’s role as mayor of Richwood. The Richwood City Council began the impeachment proceedings after the West Virginia State Auditor confirmed it is investigating Baber for possible misuse of the city’s purchasing card in the aftermath of June 2016 floods.
All motions and material will have to be filed by June 8th. Then the panel will hear Baber’s case June 15th. The judges will rule as to whether Baber should be reinstated or removed as mayor.
Richwood City Council voted again to impeach Mayor Bob Henry Baber. The council voted to begin impeachment proceedings two months ago, but the motion was dismissed by Judge James Rowe in January. Judge Rowe told council members they had not followed the city’s charter and would need to begin the process again.
The Richwood Council again drafted papers for impeachment Thursday and voted to begin removing Baber from office.
Baber released the following statement:
“The vote was 6 for, I abstention, and I vote with the qualification that the serious issues which were raised about City residencies and Ward representation by Cindy Romano would have to be investigated.
The meeting started with Richard Robb, Baber’s attorney and long time Mayor of South Charleston objecting to the entire proceeding, Citing that the Council had served impeachment papers that referred to emails, documents, and accusations that weren’t submitted with charges to either him or Mayor Baber. Robb challenged the Council on the provision of the Charter which states that the Mayor must be presented with specific charges and have ample time to respond to such charges. Robb also challenged the Council on the legal residency of Chuck Toussieng, a Council member appointed by the Council along with Glen Weiler in early 2016. Weiler lost the election when provisional votes flipped Baber into office. The tally was originally Weiler 102, Baber 100.
But on the day of the flood, June 23 2016, Baber announced from Salt Lake City on Facebook he was Mayor, by a vote of 104-103.
Cindy Romano also pointed out that Weiler had changed his address in February 2017 at 911 to fill a vacancy in a different Ward than the one he voted for when he was a Mayoral candidate.
“I don’t care where people are FROM, But I sure do care where people are AT. And Toussieng and Weiler have proved they do not have the best interests of the town or its schools in mind.”
Besides a number of minor charges concerning the passing of the City P-card, travel, attempting to start a non-profit to assist the City on economic development, the primary charge was that the Mayor had directed the City Clerk not to pay federal and state payroll taxes which, with penalties, had ballooned to over a half million both pre and post flood. Robb asked where the witness was, but Abigail McClung, who quit the City shortly after the State Auditors showed up was not present. Baber informed a rapt group of about 75 citizens that the the City Recorder/ Treasurer, along with the Council Finance Committee and the Council as a whole had primary responsibility managing City funds, not the Mayor.
Baber added, “Like any good Mayor I constantly asked Abigail McClung if the City was meeting its payroll taxes, PEIA, retirement, and flood related recovery expenses. She repeatedly assured me we were.”
Chuck Toussieng, who recruited, Glen Weiler to relocate to Richwood from California, stated that he would resign if it turned out he was not a legal resident of the City. He further stated that it was Mayor Baber who appointed both he and Weiler. Mayor Baber, who was placed on “adminstrative leave” in September over P card receipts “lost” by the former Clerk, responded, “Actually, Mr. Toussieng, as we both know, it was the Council that appointed both you and Mr. Weiler.That is what the Charter mandates and what happened last year.”
Baber also rebuffed the charge that he had tried to start a 501(c) (3) to assist the City in raising funds for the arts and economic development. He cited his work for the Glenville State College Foundation and said, “starting a non-profit is not an impeachable offense, it’s just a good idea since West Virginia receives the lowest amount of private grant money per capita in the nation.”
Baber pointed out that he had written
Many multi million dollar successful Grants, including a number for the City.
Deborah Dorland, an artist who was rescued from the now abandoned Nursing Home and who spent over a year in a Spencer Nursing Home before returning to Richwood, spoke eloquently on behalf of Mayor Baber.
“I don’t think it’s fair to put the tax liability on the Mayor,” she said, “the responsibly should rest primarily on the Council. She added, “Mayor Baber has fought for our schools, fought to get what we deserve from FEMA, and needs to be leading the City again.” Dorland, who switched hands after having a stroke to continue to make art, later told people she had driven a mile in the rain in her scooter to speak.
Mayor Baber showed the crowd the wooden keys he had given to 5,000 volunteers who gave 40 or more hours of service mucking people out and rebuilding after the Thousand Year Flood that, “These wooden keys are not promotional materials, they represent the rich wood of our town and out deep gratitude to the angelic people who came to help us from all over the United States. They are keepsakes that cost less than the price of a pack of gum.”
With the schools, the Flood could cost the town of 2,000 as much as 100 million dollars in damage. 130 jobs were also at the Nursing Home.
“I am pleased to finally have an opportunity to refute the ginned up. charges against me. This is not about ego or power, this is about the very survival of Richwood and the future of our schools. I want to work for the good people of Richwood. I want the office I was elected to back. Sidelining me has been incredibly depressing for the past six months as I have watched the City put all its energy into scapegoating me.”
At one point Baber stated, “Its a good thing I was in Utah visiting my new grandson when the rain came…otherwise the Council would be impeaching me for causing the Flood.”
The Impeachment will now proceed to Judge Rowe who will decide if the impeachment should be declared defective, or if it warrants being sent on to the Supreme Court which could select a three judge panel to hear the case. “
The Richwood council and Baber will go again before Judge Rowe for a hearing on the impeachment proceedings.
Richwood Mayor Bob Henry Baber has filed a Motion to Dismiss the impeachment proceedings against him. The Richwood City Council voted to begin the process of removing the mayor back in December. Baber was served with a Resolution for Removal December 13th, and now the case goes before a 3-panel judge.
In the notice, filed in Judge James Rowe’s courtroom, Baber outlines responses to the allegations against him. Baber disputes the charges of mal-administration, official misconduct and fiscal mismanagement. Baber argues the city’s purchasing card does not require council approval, and all travel or expenses were for city business. He also said anyone who used the purchasing card was approved to do so by the mayor’s office.
The Council said Baber forced the city clerk to delay paying payroll taxes, costing the city $87,000 in state tax and $500,000 in federal tax. Baber responded saying it would not be possible for this amount to have accrued in his 15 months in office, indicating any issue existed long before the Mayor was in office.
Baber is asking Judge Rowe to dismiss the petition to remove him from office, and to award him, “reasonable attorney fees and costs in being forced to defend an action caused by the vendetta of a disgruntled member of town council he defeated in the most recent mayoral election by a single vote.”
The hearing before Judge Rowe is set for January 17th at 10:00am.
RICHWOOD- The Richwood City Council has started the process to remove Mayor Bob Henry Baber from office. Baber was on administrative leave after the council learned he was being investigated by the West Virginia Auditor’s Office. Thursday night the council voted to begin the proceedings to remove him on charges of Mal-administration, official misconduct and financial mismanagement.
City Council presented a series of charges against council stating in summary, “Baber is in violation of the Richwood City Charter. He is not faithfully executing the orders, bylaws, ordinances, acts and resolutions of the Council.”
Richwood’s Council argues Mayor Baber made purchases with the city’s “P-card” without Council approval including travel, a caterer and goods for the city. Councilmembers add that Baber did not provide receipts from these purchases in a timely manner.
Baber is also accused of hiring employees without authorization, and publicizing confidential matters from Executive Session on Facebook.
In regards to “official misconduct” the council alleges Baber colluded with vendors, encouraged council to fire an employee, tried to use city funds to establish a city 501(c)(3), paid himself unauthorized overtime, and submitting reimbursement for personal bills.
Under the section entitled “financial mismanagement”, council said Baber purchases $6,000 worth of promotional items for the city without prior approval, and directed the City Clerk to delay paying payroll taxes. Council said the later causes the city a tax liability of $311,807 in federal taxes and $57,000 in state taxes.