PRATT, W.Va. – A Kanawha County mayor will stay in office following a ruling Friday by a three-judge panel.
The panel said the citizens who tried to remove Pratt Mayor Gary Fields “offered no evidence that (Fields) engaged in any type of official misconduct, malfeasance, incompetence, neglect of duty or gross immorality in any form.”
Some residents have been upset with Fields about his use of a city-owned police cruiser, cell phone and an arrest on a drug charge last year. They also complained about the mayor’s physical condition at council meetings.
Fields admitted during a hearing in front of the judges earlier this year that medication puts him in a fog sometimes and that he stopped using the police cruiser when council complained.
The panel said the claims brought against Fields had problems from the beginning and could have been dismissed without a hearing but it was decided to have one.
In the end circuit judges Michael Aloi of Marion County, Gary Johnson of Nicholas County and John Hatcher of Fayette County, said the petition was “wholly devoid of any vague or specific factual allegations” against Mayor Fields.
Town council asked for Fields’ resignation on September 13, but Fields refused to step down. During the November 12 council meeting, members voted to begin seeking petition signatures in an effort to move forward with impeachement proceedings. The effort required 10 percent of the town’s registered voters to sign the petition, which led to the appointment of the three-judge panel by the chief justice of the state Supreme Court.
Fields pleaded guilty to drug possession in February and was sentenced to six months probation. The plea allows for the case to be dismissed after the six months sentence. The deal would also allow Fields to have his record expunged if he stays out of trouble until Feb. 2015.
Fields was pulled over by a State Trooper last August in that town-owned cruiser. He didn’t have a good explanation for the prescription drugs in his possession. He was eventually charged with one count of misdemeanor possession.