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Berkeley Co. Fire Board appointment made in error

November 20, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A Martinsburg-area businessman who has served on the Berkeley County Fire Board since July 2007 should not have been appointed because he was not eligible based on residency requirements, the Berkeley County Commission's legal counsel said Thursday.

Attorney Norwood Bentley III said the appointment of Tim Feltner apparently was not reviewed to verify he resided in a county magisterial district not already represented on the seven-member board.

The board's current president, David Ditto, resides in the same district as Feltner.

Unaware of the eligibility question, Feltner told the commission Thursday that he still plans to attend fire board meetings and share his views on how the panel spends fire fees collected from county property owners.

Before questions about his eligibility surfaced, Feltner was targeted for removal by fellow board members who claimed he was disruptive and impeded the board's efforts to build a new fire station in Hedgesville, W.Va.

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Feltner told the commission Thursday that the board had behaved similarly and also failed to follow ethics rules. At a previous commission meeting, Feltner questioned spending decisions being made for the long-standing Hedgesville fire station project.

"I apologized to the board for the profanity," Feltner said of past comments at fire board meetings.

Bentley said Thursday that an ethics seminar was being planned for the fire board.

Commission President Steven C. Teufel told fellow commissioners during their July 5, 2007, meeting that Feltner's appointment was recommended by the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Chamber of Commerce, according to archived meeting minutes.

Teufel declined to vote on Feltner's appointment last year because he served on the fire board, which is comprised of three members of the county's fire association, three citizens and a county commissioner.

On Thursday, Teufel openly defended the board's spending decisions, saying the panel had been a "penny-pinching board" since he first served on it and touted efforts to improve fire service in the county.

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