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WEST VIRGINIA CODE
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WVC 6-6-7

§6-6-7. Procedure for removal of county, school district and municipal officers having fixed terms; appeal; grounds; cost.

(a) Any person holding any county, school district or municipal office, including the office of a member of a board of education and the office of magistrate, the term or tenure of which office is fixed by law, whether the office be elective or appointive, except judges of the circuit courts, may be removed from such office in the manner provided in this section for official misconduct,  neglect of duty, incompetence or for any of the causes or on any of the grounds provided by any other statute.

(b) Charges may be proffered:

(1) In the case of any county officer, member of a board of education or magistrate:

(A) By a duly enacted resolution of the county commission which sets forth therein the name and office of the challenged officer, the alleged wrongful acts, the dates the alleged acts occurred and the grounds for removal as provided in this article;

(B) By the prosecuting attorney of the county; or

(C) By petition of a number of qualified petitioners, which number shall be:

(i) In a county with a population in excess of fifty thousand; the lesser of two thousand or ten percent of the number of registered voters who participated in the particular election in which the challenged officer was chosen which next preceded the filing of the petition;

(ii) In a county with a population in excess of ten thousand but not in excess of fifty thousand, the lesser of five hundred or ten percent of the number of registered voters who participated in the particular election in which the challenged officer was chosen which next preceded the filing of the petition; and

(iii) In a county with a population not in excess of ten thousand, the lesser of one hundred or ten percent of the number of registered voters who participated in the particular election in which the challenged officer was chosen which next preceded the filing of the petition.

Such petition shall set forth therein the name and office of the challenged officer, the alleged wrongful acts and the grounds for removal.

(2) In the case of any municipal officer:

(A) By a duly enacted resolution of the governing body of the municipality which sets forth therein the name and office of the challenged officer, the alleged wrongful acts, the dates the alleged acts occurred and the grounds for removal as provided in this article;

(B) By the prosecuting attorney of the county wherein such municipality, or the greater portion thereof, is located; or

(C) By petition of a number of qualified petitioners, which number shall be:

(i) In a Class I city, the lesser of two thousand or ten percent of the number of registered voters who participated in the particular election in which the challenged officer was chosen which next preceded the filing of the petition;

(ii) In a Class II city, the lesser of five hundred or ten percent of the number of registered voters who participated in the particular election in which the challenged officer was chosen which next preceded the filing of the petition;

(iii) In a Class III city, the lesser of one hundred or ten percent of the number of registered voters who participated in the particular election in which the challenged officer was chosen which next preceded the filing of the petition; and

(iv) In a Class IV town or village, the lesser of fifty or ten percent of the number of registered voters who participated in the particular election in which the challenged officer was chosen which next preceded the filing of the petition.

Such petition shall set forth therein the name and office of the challenged officer, the alleged wrongful acts and the grounds for removal.

 (3) By the chief inspector and supervisor of public offices of the state where the person sought to be removed is entrusted by law with the collection, custody and expenditure of public moneys because of any intentional or unlawful misapplication, misappropriation or embezzlement of such moneys.

(c) When removal is proffered by a duly enacted resolution of a county commission or municipal governing body, a certified copy of the resolution shall be served by the clerk of the commission or municipal governing body upon the circuit court in whose jurisdiction the officer serves within five business days of adoption of the resolution. The proffering county commission or municipal governing body shall be responsible for the prosecution of the removal resolution.

(d) When removal is proffered by the prosecuting attorney, the charges shall be reduced to writing and the charges shall be served upon the circuit court in whose jurisdiction the officer serves, and the prosecuting attorney shall be responsible for the prosecution of the removal action.

(e) When removal is proffered by petition, the charges shall be reduced to writing and each page on which signatures are affixed shall include the name and office of the challenged officer, the charges or grounds for removal, which may be achieved by attachment to each signature page, and an informed acknowledgement of an agreement with the charges. At least one of the persons bringing the petition shall serve the original petition upon the circuit court in whose jurisdiction the officer serves, and shall be responsible for the prosecution of the removal action.

(f) Any resolution or petition submitted pursuant to this section shall be received and entered of record by the court, or the judge thereof in vacation, and a summons shall thereupon be issued by the clerk of such court, together with a copy of the resolution or petition, requiring the officer or person named therein, or legal counsel therefor, to appear before the court for a preliminary hearing, at the courthouse of the county where such officer resides, for the purpose of a judicial determination as to the validity of the resolution or petition, the clerk having ascertained whether such signatures are the signatures of eligible residents, and to hear any related objections or motions that may be presented. The summons shall be served in the manner by which a summons commencing a civil suit may be served within five business days of the receipt of the resolution or petition by the court.

(g) The court, or judge thereof in vacation, or in the case of any multi-judge circuit, the chief judge thereof, shall have authority to evaluate any resolution or petition for any procedural defect, and to consider all the allegations made in the resolution or petition in light of the applicable case law and the required strict construction of the grounds asserted, and conclude whether or not the allegations asserted would be sufficient, if proven by clear and convincing evidence, to warrant the removal of the officer from office.  In the case of a petition, the court may require that the clerk responsible for the maintenance of voting records for the governing body for whom the officer serves provide an affidavit verifying the number of qualified petitioner signatures and the applicable total number of registered voters.

If the court finds, after consideration of any motions or objections, or in the court’s discretion provided for herein, that the resolution or petition is defective or the allegations stated therein do not meet the standards for removal set forth herein, the resolution or petition shall be dismissed by the court.  If the court finds that the resolution or petition is sufficient under the standards for removal set forth herein to proceed to a hearing before a three-judge court, the court shall forward a copy of the resolution or petition to the Supreme Court of Appeals.

Upon receipt of said resolution or petition, the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals shall, not fewer than twenty days from the date of the receipt of the resolution or petition, designate and appoint three circuit judges within the state, not more than one of whom shall be from the same circuit in which the resolution or petition was filed and, in the order of such appointment, shall require that the three-judge court designate the date, time and place for the hearing of the resolution or petition forthwith.

Such three-judge court shall, without a jury, hear the charges, any motions filed by either party and all evidence offered in support thereof or in opposition thereto, and upon satisfactory proof of the charges by clear and convincing evidence, shall remove any such officer from office and place the records, papers and property of his office in the possession of some other officer or person for safekeeping or in the possession of the person appointed as hereinafter provided to fill the office temporarily. Any final order either removing or refusing to remove any such person from office shall contain such findings of fact and conclusions of law as the three-judge court shall deem sufficient to support its decision of all issues presented to it in the matter.

(h) An appeal from an order of such three-judge court removing or refusing to remove any person from office pursuant to this section may be taken to the Supreme Court of Appeals within thirty days from the date of entry of the order from which the appeal is taken. The Supreme Court of Appeals shall consider and decide the appeal upon the original papers and documents, without requiring the same to be printed and shall enforce its findings by proper writ. From the date of any order of the three-judge court removing an officer under this section until the expiration of thirty days thereafter, and, if an appeal be taken, until the date of suspension of such order, if suspended by the three-judge court and if not suspended, until the final adjudication of the matter by the Supreme Court of Appeals, the officer, commission or body having power to fill a vacancy in such office may fill the same by a temporary appointment until a final decision of the matter, and when a final decision is made by the Supreme Court of Appeals shall fill the vacancy in the manner provided by law for such office.

(i) In any case wherein the charges are  proffered by the chief inspector and supervisor of public offices against the county commission or any member thereof or any county, school district or municipal officer, the proceedings under this section shall be conducted and prosecuted in the same manner set forth herein for removal by resolution or petition by the prosecuting attorney of the county in which the officer proceeded against resides, and on any appeal from the order of the three-judge court in any such case, the Attorney General of the state shall represent the people. When any municipal officer is proceeded against the solicitor or municipal attorney for such municipality may assist in the prosecution of the charges.

(j) If a judicial proceeding under this section is dismissed or otherwise resolved in favor of the challenged officer who has been found to be acting in good faith, the political subdivision for which the officer serves shall be responsible for the court costs and reasonable attorney fees for the officer.

Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2016 Regular Session
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