Forsythe’s Chester suit set for mediator

NEW CUMBERLAND – Chester Mayor Larry Forsythe’s lawsuit against Chester City Council members has been set for mediation and, if that fails, a trial in September 2016.

Hancock County Circuit Court Judge David J. Sims scheduled the trial for Sept. 20, 2016, but said in an order that the case also qualified for civil mediation.

Such mediation would have to be mutually agreed upon and conducted by a properly certified mediator, the judge said. It should take place no later than 30 days before the trial and completed by the pretrial conference scheduled for Sept. 9.

Forsythe is suing the five council members over a series of “dereliction of duty” charges they filed against him during the July 6 council meeting. The five charges alleged that Forsythe had refused to carry out certain duties since taking office in July 2014.

Capping a year of acrimony between the council and the new mayor, the charges were filed with the city clerk’s office but did not result in any formal action against the mayor. Forsythe filed the lawsuit later that month, asking for a permanent injunction and for the charges to be declared invalid.

In November, Sims denied a defense motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Councilmen Mike Dotson, John “Woody” Woodruff, Brad Anderson, Ed Beaumont and Steve Shuman are being represented by Huntington attorney David Holtzapfel.

If the parties object to mediation, they must file a written notice with the court. If they cannot agree on a mediator, they also must notify the court in writing. The West Virginia State Bar maintains a list of qualified mediators.

Mediation sessions must be attended by each party, or their designated representatives, the attorney and any representatives of the insurance carrier, Sims said in his order.

The West Virginia Trial Court Rules define mediation as “an informal, non-adversarial process whereby a neutral third person … assists disputing parties to resolve by agreement or examine some or all of the differences between them.”

The role of the mediator is to “encourage and assist the parties to reach their own mutually acceptable resolution by facilitating communication, helping to clarify issues and interests, identifying what additional information should be collected or exchanged, fostering joint problem-solving, exploring resolution alternatives, and other similar means,” according to the rules.

Forsythe, represented by his son-in-law, Thomas Decapio, and attorney Kevin Pearl, is asking for a jury trial, punitive damages and all other damages allowed by law.

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