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Suit reveals Berkeley County Councilman's bankruptcy filing

Douglas E. Copenhaver Jr. says he had to file Chapter 11 because partners failed to make payments

June 01, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com
  • Berkeley County Council members, from left, Jim Whitacre, Douglas E. Copehaver Jr. and Elaine Mauck are shown in this 2011 file photo. Copenhaver's petition for bankruptcy has surfaced in a wrongful termination lawsuit that the county's former facilities director filed against him and the council, according to court records.
Herald-Mail file photo

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A Berkeley County Council member’s petition for  bankruptcy has surfaced in a wrongful termination lawsuit that the county’s former facilities director filed against him and the council, according to court records.

The termination lawsuit filed last month in Berkeley County Circuit Court on behalf of Jay Russell of Winchester, Va., names the council and Councilman Douglas E. Copenhaver Jr., as defendants.

Russell is asking for unspecified general damages; reinstatement of employment, benefits and seniority rights; back wages; future lost earnings and benefits in lieu of reinstatement; attorneys’ fees; and punitive damages, according to the lawsuit.

Copenhaver filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Dec. 7, according to a notice that attorney Michael D. Lorensen filed last week with the circuit court.

The notice asks the state court to observe federal statute and take no action in the wrongful termination lawsuit against the defendant in violation of an automatic stay that is instituted as a result of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.

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Copenhaver said Thursday that he was unaware of Lorensen’s legal maneuver until receiving notice that it had been taken. He confirmed that he and his wife, Jacqueline, filed for Chapter 11 and that their case was pending. 

Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows an individual to reorganize financial obligations while retaining assets and working out a payment plan.

A developer, Copenhaver said he had to file Chapter 11 to reorganize because business partners in real estate deals failed to make payments for two years, and he “picked up their slack” until he ran out of money. 

“The economy didn’t turn around in time and the sales never came through,” said Copenhaver, who was elected to the council in 2010. The council is the budget-balancing arm of the county government.

Among the creditors holding the 20 largest unsecured claims in the Copenhavers’ bankruptcy case is the Bank of Charles Town, which includes $1.4 million in deficiency business debt involving Goodland LLC, $179,400 in personal guarantees of business debt involving Custom Contracting Inc. and $71,550 in personal guarantees of a business loan involving Snowy River Log Homes LLC, according to the voluntary petition filed with the bankruptcy court.

CNB Bank Inc. is also listed among the creditors in connection with $101,389 for business debt involving Snowy Rivers LLC.

Additional creditors include more than $5,000 in taxes owed to the Berkeley County sheriff’s tax office and a $38,161 line of credit/bond business debt owed to the Jefferson County Commission in connection with the Mountain Vista Farms development, according to the petition.

Five Back Creek Valley Road properties in Berkeley County and five home sites in Shenandoah Junction in Jefferson County are among the assets involved in the proceeding, according to a proposed reorganization plan filed in April with the bankruptcy court.

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