PARKERSBURG -The father of a police officer central in a lawsuit against the mayor and police chief previously talked about removing them from office, two city council members said on Monday.
Council members Sharon Lynch and Nancy Wilcox said the timing of the suit by the Blennerhassett Lodge 79, Fraternal of Police, a few days before today's primary election, and because only Mayor Bob Newell and police Chief Joe Martin are named, smacks of political motivation.
"Right before the primary," Lynch said. "It makes me believe it was politically motivated."
Wilcox said it's part of a vendetta.
A lawsuit filed Thursday in Wood County Circuit Court alleges the city of Parkersburg breached an agreement by failing to pay longevity increases and overtime. The lodge and lodge President Chris Morehead are listed as plaintiffs.
The suit names Martin, Newell and the city of Parkersburg as defendants.
Filed just days before the primary election, it was also filed, according to numerous members of the FOP, without the knowledge or consent of the lodge. A meeting was held Saturday to discuss the suit. Twenty members of the FOP attended the meeting and a secret ballot vote affirmed the suit, according to a release from FOP attorney John Triplett Jr.
Parkersburg City Council, the legislative body of the city, was not named in the suit.
"It's not a mayoral thing," said Wilcox. "That was a council thing, and we repealed the ordinance. We have the right to do that."
Lynch said Dave Morehead, Chris Morehead's father, talked to her on two occasions about removing Martin and Newell.
"He was basically after Newell and Martin," Lynch said. "Telling me how his son was being picked on. And the police department was unfair. He was on a mission."
Lynch said she met with Morehead earlier this year. Lynch said Morehead told her things were going to come to light and she would see things happening.
"I didn't care for that," she said. "If you have a problem with someone, you go to them and talk to them."
Morehead confirmed he had spoken to Lynch, but said they did not discuss the treatment of his son.
"That's not true at all," he said.
Dave Morehead claims for the past few months Newell and Martin have been investigated, along with several other people. Morehead did not provide proof of those investigations.
He defended his son, stating Chris Morehead has been mistreated by the department.
"My son has been treated like an animal and he is one of the best police officers the city has ever had," Dave Morehead said. "No father takes that kindly."
Last August, Parkersburg High School officials were informed by Martin that Chris Morehead, the school's Prevention Resource Officer, was being reassigned. Morehead had worked at the school for about a year and a half.
The switch upset some residents and students. A petition with 176 signatures requesting the reinstatement of Morehead to the positions, was mailed to Martin, Newell, Superintendent Pat Law and members of the Wood County Board of Education as well as to Parkersburg High School.
Wilcox said she also spoke with Morehead.
"He came to my house and told me how we needed to work together to get rid of Martin and Newell," she said.
Wilcox said Morehead was upset because of his son Chris and an article in The News and Sentinel regarding overtime.
In 2010 The News and Sentinel reviewed the city's overtime records and found 22 of the highest paid non-salaried positions in Parkersburg were either police officers or firefighters, according to payroll records from the city finance department. Sixteen earned more than two department heads.
Chris Morehead topped the list, earning more than $27,000 in overtime in the 2009-2010 fiscal year, earning $64,000 in total.
Wilcox said Dave Morehead leveled a number of accusations against Newell and Martin and claimed to have documentation.
Wilcox asked to see it. Wilcox said Morehead went to his car and returned with a briefcase and a folder.
Wilcox said she looked through it and found nothing but handwritten notes by Dave Morehead.
"I said do you think this would stand up in court," Wilcox said.
Wilcox said she became upset with Dave Morehead.
"I told him to go home and tell Chris he was a chicken (expletive deleted) for sending his dad to talk to me," Wilcox said. "I told him if Chris had a problem to come and talk to me, not have his daddy do it."
Wilcox said the Moreheads have a vendetta against Newell and Martin. And she stands by the account of her encounter with Dave Morehead.
"If it goes to court, subpoena me and I will go into court and tell them," Wilcox said. "He actually made the statement to me that we need to band together and get Newell and Martin out of office...They have a vendetta for them."
"I was afraid it would get nasty and it is," Lynch said.