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Residents rally to have Ward reinstated

June 17, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Applause was frequent during the Charles Town City Council meeting Monday night, but was loudest twice: When Councilman Matt Ward appealed to be placed back on the city's Planning Commission and when an audience member said that Councilwoman Geraldine Willingham's attention seemed to be elsewhere when members of the public spoke.

Willingham, one of the people involved in the controversy surrounding Ward's removal from the planning commission, frequently flipped through papers or wrote as audience members addressed the council.

She was showing a piece of paper to the councilman next to her when Dennis Kordyak said, "I'm sorry, I keep interrupting Ms. Willingham here."

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Heated words were exchanged between the two, and Kordyak later apologized.

Kordyak and several others asked that Ward be reinstated to the planning commission.

Ward was replaced by Willingham. Don Clendening, whom Ward defeated in the recent city election, also was appointed to the five-member commission.

Steve DiServio said Clendening "has no business being on the planning commission. You spit on the face of the voters."

Greg Cobb demanded that each council member who voted to remove Ward offer an explanation.

Willingham, Randy Breeden and Timothy Robinson all said they received numerous complaints about Ward.

"I thought there was time for a change," Breeden said.

Councilman Russell C. Miller said he did not appreciate the fact that Ward, after he was removed from the planning commission by the council at its previous meeting, passed him a note that read, "Sore loser."

The opening for the planning commission position was not posted to the public, something for which Mayor J. Randolph Hilton said he takes responsibility. When posted in the past, such positions usually garner no responses, he said.

Hilton said the best path was not taken regarding Ward's removal. "We have to listen to what the people have said," Hilton told council.

It is up to council members to decide whether to reinstate Ward. Hilton could not predict whether the issue would be revisited.

Ward said any complaints against him may have been from developers, since he said he advocates a high standard for development and because he does not favor annexing all the land between the Opequon Creek and Harpers Ferry.

"The planning commission is where I belong," Ward said.

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