6:00: Morning News

Raleigh County judge hears testimony in ongoing Beckley form of government dispute

BECKLEY, W.Va. — The decision by Beckley City Council to switch to a city manager form of government was back in court Friday on the city’s motion to dismiss a legal challenge filed by a Beckley businessman.

Doug Epling

The city told Raleigh County Circuit Judge Andrew Dimlich that businessman Doug Epling’s lawsuit should be dismissed because the city’s charter gives council the authority to make the move.

That charter said council can pass an ordinance to change forms of government. Beckley had had a strong mayor form of government.

Dimlich heard testimony but didn’t issue a ruling on Friday.

Attorneys for Epling argued council’s January 4-3 vote to reduce the powers of the mayor while at the same time hiring a city manager violates state law.

Epling told reporters after Friday’s hearing city council is ignoring the residents of Beckley by not giving them the opportunity to vote.

“I just think the people need to be represented and someone needs to take up the fight for them,” Epling said.

He added the city’s municipal government has been ignoring its residents in other areas.

Rob Rappold

“I love this community, my wife, my family, we love it, someone has to speak up for the people,” Epling said.

Beckley Mayor Rob Rappold, who sent an email to council members in January suggesting the issue be put on the ballot for a referendum, said Friday he did so because he thought a council member was going to vote to table the city manager proposal. He said the member then changed his mind and said he would vote for it.

“Council rules; so that’s how all of that came together,” Rappold said. “I thought that if we tabled it and there was a motion to take it to a referendum we could do that. Either way I think it’s fine.”

Beckley Council has yet to find a city manager. Its recruitment committee unanimously recommended this week to hire a Virginia-based search firm to help it.

Epling is represented by attorney Debra Varner. Attorney Karen McElhinny represented the city in Friday’s hearing.

WJLS Reporter Keith Thompson contributed to this story.





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