City of Westover settles lawsuit brought by former council member

The federal lawsuit brought by former Westover City Council member Ralph Mullins against the city and its representatives has been settled for $3,000. 

This is after seven of the nine claims listed in the suit were dismissed by U.S. District Judge Thomas Kleeh in recent weeks.

Thomas Buck, the Bailey & Wyant attorney representing the defendants, explained it’s cheaper to settle than show up in court at this point.

The two remaining claims in the civil suit were assault and battery against former Mayor Dave Johnson stemming from a Feb. 22, 2022 city council meeting during which Johnson and Mullins nearly came to blows. 

Johnson was charged with misdemeanor battery for shoving in Mullins’ direction during the exchange. He was ultimately found not guilty by Magistrate Jim Nabors in May 2023. 

In addition to the criminal charge described above, the incident was included in the civil suit Mullins filed in U.S. District Court in September 2022. 

“This assault and battery claim was resolved for a cost of trial avoidance amount of $3,000. Simply, the cost of defending the assault and battery claim far exceeded $3,000 and it was cheaper to settle,” Buck wrote in a memo included as part of the council packet for Monday’s Westover City Council meeting. 

Mullins’ original lawsuit included the city, Johnson, attorney Tim Stranko, City Clerk Sandie Weiss and five current and former members of city council as defendants. 

Accusations in the lawsuit included retaliation in violation of the First Amendment, violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, slander, assault, battery, violation of the West Virginia Whistleblower Law, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. 

In April, Kleeh dismissed the constitutional claims and the claims of slander and emotional distress, which removed Weiss and the council members as defendants. 

Last week, Kleeh dismissed the whistleblower claim, which eliminated the city and Stranko as defendants and left only Johnson and the assault and battery claims. 

In a statement to The Dominion Post, Mullins said he believes the lawsuit was successful. 

“From two short years ago, the entire Westover legislative and executive has been dismantled with the exception of two. The premise of this case was to ensure that those who betrayed the public trust would never again be in a position to do so. And we achieved that.”  

Outgoing Westover City Council member Steve Andryzcik sees it differently. Andryzcik was among those initially listed as a defendant. 

“Council, the city attorney and the previous mayor endured many, many, many accusations. I think it’s important for people to remember all the black eyes that Westover received through all this because, in the end, it was all found to be meritless,” Andryzcik said.  

“If you recall, ‘Ralph Mullins’ quest for truth, justice and accountability’ is what was written on the front page of the lawsuit against all of us. I guess truth, justice and accountability is worth $3,000 minus lawyer fees.”