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City of Westover files motion to dismiss Mullins lawsuit

The city of Westover has moved to dismiss a federal lawsuit brought by former city councilor Ralph Mullins, comparing the suit to a novella and characterizing it as “hyperbolic” and full of “self-service praise.”

Mullins, represented by attorney Ryan J. Umina, filed a civil complaint in United States District Court in September, naming as defendants former Westover mayor Dave Johnson, city attorney Tim Stranko, city clerk Sandy Weiss, current and former council members Edie Viola, Duane Tatar, Steve Andryzcik, Gary Weber and Jeffrey Friend, as well as the city of Westover.

In the suit, Mullins claims he faced “only hostile and retaliatory actions by the defendants in response to his pursuit to root out corruption in Westover …”

Accusations include retaliation in violation of the First Amendment, violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, slander, assault, battery, violation of the West Virginia Whistleblower Law and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

In response, attorney Thomas E. Buck says most of what Mullins alleges is unsupported and includes no claims upon which relief could actually be granted.

Further, Buck counters, Mullins is looking to spin the one potentially factual claim in his suit — a February 22, 2022, confrontation with Johnson — into an opportunity.

Johnson ended up charged with misdemeanor battery for shoving in Mullins’ direction after a heated exchange over whether the councilor could record an executive session. Mullins said he was left with a torn meniscus following the encounter.

To which Buck writes, “In a transparent attempt to financially and politically profit as much as possible from an allegation which, if true, would merit a brief time-out for a toddler, Plaintiff attempts to obfuscate the frivolity of his claims with a veritable cornucopia — 220 paragraphs, plus a narrative preamble — of political grievances, factual exaggerations, feigned outrage, and conclusory legal statements.”

Umina responded to the motion to dismiss, noting the city’s response was quite wordy in its own right and is little more than further efforts to silence Mullins, who faced “unnecessary, unwarranted and illegal mistreatment.”  

The motion is currently pending before Judge Thomas Kleeh.

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