Frustrated Newell takes on panel

It would appear Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell declared war last week on the Parkersburg Police Civil Service Commission, seeking – and at least initially reportedly getting – the resignations of the remaining two or three members on the panel after threatening legal action if they didn’t resign.

Newell long has been discontented with both the actions and the lack of action of the commission, blaming it for a variety of actions and inactions that have cost the city thousands of dollars, delayed police department promotions and resulted in unnecessary legal actions . He also accused one member of unethical behavior.

It had been hoped the issues would resolve themselves several years ago when new members were appointed to the body, but that apparently was not the case.

Newell sent letters to commission President Robert Campbell and member Joe Gonzales, asking them to resign, stating the commission’s performance over the past three years had been “grossly dysfunctional. There have been multiple intentional and dishonest acts by members of the commission which have resulted, or will result in, the unnecessary expenditure of nearly a quarter of a million dollars in taxpayer money.”

Newell wrote under state code he would remove the commissioners from their positions and listed among the reasons, “abuse of authority, failure to comply with West Virginia state law, failure to perform the required legal duties of a commission, the appearance of impropriety in having a business or financial relationships with parties coming before the commission, and other possible violation of the West Virginia Ethics Act.”

Newell had threatened and had prepared a petition to be filed in Wood County Circuit Court within the state law-required 10 days asking the court to confirm his removals of Campbell and Gonzales, a Parkersburg police officer.

Newell said he was informed the two commissioners resigned – presumably rather than face a legal battle – but the FOP president Friday denied its appointment to the commission, Gonzales, had resigned, and questioned if Campbell had resigned.

Neither Gonzales nor Campbell would return repeated telephone calls from The News and Sentinel.

Have the two resigned or not?

According to Newell, it makes no difference because he has removed them.

Newell has appointed a replacement for Campbell and the Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley has appointed former city councilman Tom Joyce to replace the third member of the commission who resigned before the controversy began. Only the FOP replacement for Gonzales is in question.

Whether Campbell and Gonzales have resigned on not, Newell says he’ll move forward Monday with the court petition, which could turn the entire episode into a nasty court battle and a public relations blackeye for the commission, the FOP and the city.

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Over the last couple of months The News and Sentinel has been taking a hard look at some of its past practices pertaining to news and when it is published.

Some things already have changed: The elimination of deadlines for how soon a wedding must be received by the newspaper for publication, the use of check-presentation photographs, the elimination of letter-to-the-editor ban on so-called back-and-forth letters, the use of non-commercial “thank-you” letters to the editor, allowing more than one letter-to-the-editor per writer per month and the elimination of comments on articles and columns on the newspaper’s website.

Another long past practice also is ending.

Over the years, The News and Sentinel has received honor roll lists from Mid-Ohio Valley schools to publish in a special honor roll tabloid. Sometimes that meant lists actually were received by the newspaper weeks before they were published as the newspaper waited for late comers to get their information to us. We think that really wasn’t fair to those students whose schools supplied the information on a timely basis.

So, we’re changing to get readers more involved in their newspaper and provide student-related information on a more timely basis.

The lists will be published in the daily newspaper within a couple of days of their receipt, and due to its size the Wood County Schools honor roll list will be published on the Sunday after its receipt.

Contact Jim Smith at jsmith@newsandsentinel.com