An attorney representing three men each suing the city of East Mountain now is suing the city himself.
Andrew Korn filed a lawsuit this week in the Upshur County Clerk's Office in which he, along with law partner David Diaz, is suing the city for not complying with 32 open records requests that the pair filed between Oct. 12 and Jan. 30, despite the state attorney general's office ordering the city to comply with releasing information.
This is the fourth lawsuit filed against East Mountain since October.
Korn is representing Ken Miller, Gari Bellis and Lester Glover in their lawsuits. Miller's and Glover's lawsuits pertain to the city not complying with public information requests. Bellis' lawsuit pertains to Betty Davis serving as city administrator and police chief.
In the lawsuit filed Wednesday, Korn wrote that he filed 12 public information requests with the city between Oct. 12 and 31. The requests pertained to such issues as complaints or suggestions received by the city from the feedback section of its website; documents related to training and education of various officers, including Davis; documents related to former police officer Terry Davis' separation of employment from East Mountain as well as his employment status; the city's order of incorporation; and documents showing the city's responses to public information requests.
In the lawsuit, Korn wrote the city produced only documents "in its possession" instead of all documents; did not seek an attorney general's opinion instead of denying some requests; unlawfully responded to one request by referring Korn to a website for a portion of an employee handbook when the handbook did not exist on the website; and failed to produce anything related to one request.
Between Nov. 6 and Jan. 30, Diaz made 20 public information requests to the city. The requests included such information as minutes of City Council meetings since Jan. 1, 2014; documents related to the police department's K9 program; documents related to the city's May mayoral election, such as the election register, certificate of election and documents related to canvassing; documents that showed the city seeking or receiving property or proceeds through asset forfeiture; police manuals; a settlement agreement between the city and former police Chief Allan Brown; the city's order of incorporation; all citations or tickets accusing a person of a crime; financial statements and an independent auditor report; a resignation letter from Betty Davis for any position that she holds or held; and recordings of City Council meetings.
With the exception of the request seeking all citations or tickets issued, the city did not seek an attorney general opinion for any of the other requests, the lawsuit states. The attorney general's office in its response to the city's request to withhold information pertaining to citations and tickets told the city that it could withhold certain information but must release other information.
"The city had a duty to release the public information requested by Diaz 'promptly,' meaning without delay (and no later than 10 business days from the request). However, the city withheld public information from Diaz for as long as three months," the lawsuit states.
On Jan. 7, Korn sent a complaint to the attorney general's office about the city's violation, and on Jan. 23, the attorney general wrote the city, saying it had to release the information, according to the lawsuit.
On Jan. 27, the city released information relevant to some of the requests but continued not to produce information related to other requests, according to the lawsuit.
Among items that the city still has not produced, according to the lawsuit, are some tapes or minutes from certain City Council meetings, its order of incorporation and some office training records.
Korn argues in the lawsuit that the documents requested are a matter of public interest because they pertain to an election, police conduct, officer qualifications, nepotism and city spending.
In the lawsuit, Korn and Diaz seek a writ of mandamus compelling the city to deliver all public information requests.
Upshur County Judge Dean Fowler has recused himself in the other three cases pending against the city, and visiting Judge Paul Banner is presiding. Banner has set a trial date of March 13 for one of the three already pending cases. Banner has not said which of the lawsuits will be heard that day.