BRIDGEPORT, W. Va. — During Bridgeport’s City Council meeting Monday night, Mayor Mario Blount reiterated he would not step down from his position despite facing federal drug charges.
“I’ll always love this city, I’m from this city and I would never do anything to jeopardize the progress of our city, jeopardize the progress of our city in any aspect whatsoever,” Blount said. “If it comes to the point where I feel that will be a hindrance, I will do the right thing.”
Blount is alleged to have conspired over the last three years to distribute prescription painkillers for non-legitimate medical purposes while working his job at Best Care Pharmacy as the chief pharmacist. They were arrested last week.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, residents rose in support and opposition of Blount’s decision.
“Bridgeport needs to be allowed to put this behind us as soon as possible,” Steven McElroy, Bridgeport resident said. “When Mr. Blount is exonerated in court he can run again and be celebrated as a selfless individual who truly loves Bridgeport, rather than the one responsible for a divided city. Do the right thing, Mr. Mayor. Resign from city government.”
“I feel that, with my knowledge of knowing him over the past ten years, that he is a very honest and honorable man,” Brenda Friel, also a Bridgeport resident said.
Before the meeting in the chambers, council held an executive session to privately discuss how they would move forward after Blount’s decision to remain in office.
Opinions varied from council member to council member.
Though she said she respects Blount as a person, council member Melissa Matheny was of the opinion the situation was a distraction from progress.
“You never know what’s going to come out next, what events are going to happen,” she said. “There’s discovery and there’s hearings and there’s a trial. I just feel like it’s not fair to the people in Bridgeport to drag all of them through it with you. But the truth will come out in the end.”
There were several members who agreed with Matheny. However, there is nothing in the city’s charter which would allow them to take action at this point.
The charter does contain a removal provision if he would be convicted of a crime of “moral turpitude,” which is defined as conduct considered contrary to community standards.
Matheny is entertaining the idea of the council seeking outside legal advice on how to proceed.
Citizens could possibly take action as well, if so lead. If found not guilty, the residents have the option of petitioning for a recall vote. Ten percent of the city’s registered voters would have to sign a petition plus post the money to fund the election process.
During the meeting, Blount did state if at any time he felt like his situation would be a detriment to the community, he would step down. He will continue to assess his course as legal action proceeds.
His legal representation will receive his “discovery,” or the full description of the charges he faces, and how much time he will have to dedicate to the case before the August 1 trial.