UPDATE 4/20/11 @ 6:30 p.m.
MARMET, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A city council is trying to move forward after months of dealing with an illegal action taken inside City Hall.
“The lawyer worked on it six months and couldn't find nothing,” Marmet Mayor Bill Pauley said.
Pauley says the attorney was brought in by four members of council to take a closer look at him. He says David Fontalbert, the city recorder, was behind it all.
“He wrote the check and wanted me to sign it," Pauley said. "I said, ‘No, that's not right. I'm not gonna sign it.' "
The check to the attorney was for more than $5,000, but Pauley says the total cost was almost $9,000. As it turns out, hiring the lawyer was illegal. That means the four members who voted to do it are now footing the bill themselves.
“To throw salt on the wound, they wanted us to pay for the attorney they hired to get rid of the mayor we had just voted into office,” Junior Meadows, a Marmet resident, said.
“Their intentions were good," said Robert Wells, a councilman who wasn't involved in the attorney's hiring. "They just wanted to find out things that were actually wrong that the mayor was doing or they were doing. “But they were misled, in my opinion, by the recorder. Because my understanding was the recorder, according to the bills from the lawyers office, wanted to remove Mr. Pauley from office.”
Fontalbert responded by saying, "I have the utmost confidence in our citizen's judgment to discern political and personal attacks and motivations from the truth, which surely will triumph in the end."
So far, two of the four council members have paid their portion of the attorney fees.
The ongoing saga took an interesting turn during Monday’s Marmet City Council meeting.
It turns out a move to investigate the mayor may have been illegal, according to the city’s attorney.
Council members were supposed to vote on whether to pay the bill for an outside attorney who was hired to look into possible “wrongdoing” by the town's administration, including Mayor Billy Pauley.
But the city's attorney said Monday he doesn't think the process the council members used to hire the outside attorney was legal.
The city's attorney now is a different person than at the time the council took the vote in September.
Under state code, the city should have passed an ordinance to make this move.
Council member Bill Tardy says, "When we had a petition coming against us, when we had an attorney coming against us, we felt it would be in our best interest to get a lawyer to represent us."
Council member Bob Wells urged city leaders not to pay the outside attorney for the time being.
"The law has been broken here. The State of West Virginia law has been broken, and you better consider what you say," says Wells.
A majority of council members voted not to pay the $5,389 bill for the outside attorney, at least not until they get some direction on what they legally can and can't do from this point.
City Recorder David Fontalbert says the outside investigation is still underway. So far, no updates have been given on whether any wrongdoing has been uncovered.
Monday night's council meeting was anything but dull as dozens of people packed in to see the latest town drama unfold.
Council passed a measure 3-2 to hire legal counsel to represent them in an investigation into irregularities, potential ethical conflicts and possible wrongdoings within the town council. William Tardy, Peggy Jacobs and Jerry McGhee voted for the measure. Mayor Bill Pauley and Bobby Wells voted against it. Ruth Meadows abstained from voting.
Council members say the need for an attorney and investigation came about after concerns from the public.
"We have an obligation to find out the truth. We're not accusing anybody of anything. We have the obligation as the council of this town to find the truth and do what's right," said Jerry McGhee, Councilman.
The motion was not taken lightly by Mayor Pauley who says he was offended and hurt by the accusations.
He asked Councilman Tardy for details on what they were accusing him of, but they didn't give him a clear answer.
"I'd do anything I could to resolve the feelings they have. They hate me. I'm not kidding you. There's hate in their eyes. I wish it wasn't that way," said Mayor Pauley.
Also at Monday's meeting, the council voted down the second reading of two controversial ordinances to put a municipal fee in place and raise the garbage collection fee.
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