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Talk of firing Shepherdstown zoning officer gets heated

February 13, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - A Shepherdstown Town Council meeting lit up with controversy Tuesday night when council members agreed to support a recommendation by Mayor Lance Dom that the town's zoning officer be terminated.

A long discussion over the matter was highlighted by Dom saying that zoning officer John Mathews had once looked at him with "rage" and council member Neal Martineau offering a long defense of Mathews.

Council member Jim Ford called Martineau's comments "crap."

Dom said he offered Mathews a chance to give his resignation recently after Mathews acted in a condescending and arrogant manner in town hall.

Dom said the situation caused employees at the town hall building on King Street to be angry and fearful, and added that one employee brought mace to work.

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Mathews also took anger-management classes, Dom said.

Dom said when he asked for Mathews' resignation at town hall recently, Mathews would not leave the building.

"He looked at me with rage," said Dom, adding that he resorted to calling police.

Shepherdstown Police Chief Terry Bellomy and another officer were at Tuesday night's council meeting.

A number of people spoke in Mathews' defense, saying he was talented and knowledgeable of the town's building laws.

John Meeker, head of the town's planning commission, said Mathews' work was excellent and added that he would resign from the planning commission if Mathews was removed.

In regard to conflicts at town hall, Meeker said, "I haven't seen any example of that."

Mathews was at the meeting and sat quietly in the front row.

Mathews' wife, Linda, also spoke in support of her husband and talked about his career, which included being a judge in Florida.

Martineau said it would be "tragic and destructive" to the town to remove Mathews.

Martineau said town clerks were trying to sabotage Mathews and vowed to expose what was going on in town government.

"I've seen it and I'm about to blow the whistle on it," Martineau said.

Martineau said the town clerks have wanted to get rid of him, as well as Mathews.

"This is crap, Neal," Ford responded.

"You're going to listen," countered Martineau.

Dom asked for a motion from council to support the termination of Mathews.

Although Ford voted for the termination, he said he had never seen any negative behavior from him.

Although council member Stuart Wallace also voted for the termination, Wallace said he was uneasy about voting on it based on Dom's assessment of the situation.

Council members voted 4-1 in favor of the termination, with Martineau casting the lone dissenting vote.

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