CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A three-judge panel will consider testimony it heard Thursday calling for the removal of Pratt Mayor Gary Fields, under pressure to resign since last year for continuing conflicts with town council members.
Pratt resident Diane Similey, who spoke in front of the circuit judges at a hearing at the Kanawha County Judicial Annex, said she did not believe Fields was capable of running the town from her observations of his actions during town council meetings. Similey testified neither Fields nor the town recorder has the necessary skills to properly handle finances and too much of the town’s money is spent hiring outside financial help. She also told the judges she believes Fields had a drug problem, though admittedly she had no evidence.
Fields first came under fire when he was pulled over last year driving a city police vehicle. State police found prescription drugs in the car, drugs Fields claimed belonged to his wife. A second incident several weeks later at the town hall fueled calls for his resignation when Fields’ wife got into a shouting match with town hall employees.
Police Chief Eric Eagle testified from June 2013 to September 2013 the mayor drove a retired police cruiser as his city vehicle. Eagle said he had observed the vehicle parked at convenience stores in the area, but only during business hours.
Fields defended his use of the vehicle saying he only time he conducted any personal business while using the vehicle was if he was already out with the car conducting town business.
City council asked for Fields’ resignation on Sept. 13, but Fields refused to step down. During the Nov. 12 council meeting, members voted to begin seeking petition signatures in an effort to move forward with impeachment proceedings. The effort required 10 percent of the town’s registered voters to sign the petition, which led to the formulation of a three judge panel and Thursday’s hearing on Field’s impeachment.
The three judges led by Chief Judge John Hatcher Junior Jr. plan to meet next week via teleconference and will enter an order on their decision with the Kanawha County Circuit Clerk’s Office.
Neither side was represented by attorneys at the hearing.