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Civil Service hearing addresses credibility

January 21, 1998

Civil Service hearing addresses credibility

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer, Charles Town

RANSON, W.Va. - Charles Town Police Officer Ward Sigler said it would have been easier for him not to get involved when Charles Town Police Chief Mike Aldridge yelled at the police department's secretary.

Sigler said he could have said he was not there on the night of Aug. 21. when the altercation occurred.

But Sigler said he would not have been telling the truth and he could not avoid the issue.

Sigler and Charles Town Officer Joe Forman were suspended in September as the police chief investigated whether the two told the truth about whether Sigler was present when the chief yelled at police secretary Valerie Weaver.

Aldridge contends the two officers lied under oath that Sigler was one of several people present during the altercation.

During a Civil Service Commission hearing Wednesday at the Independent Fire Co. station in Ranson, Aldridge and town attorney Braun Hamstead presented the reasons why the two officers should be fired while Sigler and Forman argued before the Commission that they did nothing wrong.

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The two officers had requested the hearing to appeal their suspensions.

The police department has been operating short-staffed since the two were placed on administrative leave with pay. The department also has two officers out with back injures.

The police department has 10 officers, including the two who are suspended.

At issue in the case is when the altercation took place - either between 7:05 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. or around 7:20 p.m. to 7:25 p.m. when Sigler arrived at the station.

Whether Aldridge raised his voice at the secretary was not in dispute.

Aldridge said he was upset because he believed Weaver was attempting to "fix" a traffic ticket by getting the officer, Sgt. Jim Flickinger, to drop it shortly before municipal court was scheduled to begin.

Weaver said she was friends with the man who received the traffic ticket. She said an officer offered to have the ticket dropped.

Weaver and other police officers testified it was not unusual to have traffic tickets dismissed in the past.

Aldridge said he did not act as professionally as he would have liked to when he confronted Weaver.

"I was appalled that there was the fixing of tickets," Aldridge testified.

Aldridge, who was hired last January in part to clean up the police department, said Weaver made a disparaging remark when she found out the ticket would not be dropped and he got in her face.

Other police officers and the municipal judge were in the small police department when the altercation occurred. They testified they believed the incident occurred between 7:05 p.m. and 7:15 p.m., although all of them said they did not look at a clock when the incident began or notice how long it occurred.

Aldridge said he was not aware of who was in the room.

On Sept. 11, a grievance hearing was held at Weaver's request. Weaver had been dismissed when the Charles Town Council decided not to fund the position of police secretary.

Sigler was among those who testified that they witnessed the altercation.

Sigler testified he arrived about 7:20 p.m. and came into the room during the middle of the incident.

Forman also testified at the hearing that Sigler walked in during the altercation.

But other officers testified during the September hearing that Sigler was not there.

Aldridge said the issue is important because police officers must have credibility when they testify under oath or their cases can be thrown out of court.

The Civil Service Commissioners plan to review further statements today before rendering a verdict in the case.

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