Clarksburg City Council met Thursday evening with a full agenda, but the focus was more on the future of Councilman Sam "Zeke" Lopez than on the future of the city.
"Innocent Until Proven Guilty" is the stance Clarksburg City Council has chosen to take in the aftermath of Lopez's arrest, following a domestic battery allegation in April.
That charge led to the resignation of police chief Marshall Goff and a lieutenant, and earlier this week, Councilwoman Margaret Bailey called for Lopez to resign as well.
But unlike Bailey, Lopez was in attendance at Thursday's meeting, which began with some very strong words from area residents and ended with a statement from Lopez himself. That statement, which is posted below, indicated that Lopez has no plans to resign:
"I take this opportunity to provide the only public comments I intend to make regarding the pending matter against me. I am Confident that my family and I will bring this matter to a favorable conclusion. I can not explain how sorry I am that my family and I are in this situation. I ask that everyone reserve judgement because the claim against me as reported and rumored is not true. At no time did I seek nor receive any special consideration from any person. I fully expect that the charge against me will resolve favorably and those responsible for the inaccuracies will be fully exposed through the legal process. Please do not judge me by what is said by people on Facebook or other social media. By my wife being present here tonight it is clear that I am blessed with her love and support. In the interim I have no intention of relinquishing the responsibilities for which I was elected by the people of the City of Clarksburg. This matter will not affect my ability to serve on this counsel nor slow the progress we have made and will make in our city. Until the conclusion in this matter I have no further comment." -Sam "Zeke" Lopez
In its statement read by Mayor Cathy Goings, Council said that Lopez's arrest has cast a cloud over the city and has the potential to disrupt its positive momentum:
"As mayor of the City of Clarksburg, I would like to make a brief statement on behalf of myself, Margaret Bailey, Gary Bowden, Bob Caplan, Jim Malfregeot and Patsy Trecost. This is not an official act of council as a whole, which would require a formal resolution and a vote by all of the members.
Recent events surrounding the arrest of Councilman Lopez and the resignations of Police Chief Marshall Goff and Police Lieutenant Tim Smith came as a complete surprise and huge disappointment to each of us. None of us have sufficient knowledge of the facts involved to respond to questions beyond the scope of this statement. As members of City Council we are not privy to confidential information regarding the Police Department and other than actions of the City Manager we are constrained by the City's Charter from directing actions take by any of the City employee's.
We would, nevertheless, take the opportunity to publicly express our disappointment and dismay over these unfortunate events. The arrest of Councilman Lopez has cast a cloud over the City and Council we believe that these unfortunate events have damaged the reputation of our City and have the potential to disrupt the positive momentum the City has built over the past several years. We are determined that we will not allow this distraction to slow the City's progress.
Many of us experienced personal failings in our lives. It is not the role of this council to pass judgment on any citizen, employee, or council member. Let me go on to say that all of us understand the seriousness of domestic violence in our society, and we would never, ever condone it. However, everyone is constitutionally entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, and we must have the patience to await the due process of the legal proceeding. It is for the Court, and not this council to determine guilt or innocence in this case.
Further, we are committed to the prompt replacement of the leadership of our police department with the most qualified law enforcement personnel available. In that regard, we will work closely with our city manager and city attorney in properly following the procedures required in the search process.
Over the past several years, city council has made great strides in the advancement of the services rendered to the residents in the city of Clarksburg.
Our focus has to be on moving the City forward in all of its missions, in conjunction with the City Manager and the City's loyal and valued employees. We have set a number of goals for the City Administration, and the events of the last two weeks do not change those goals and expectations.
We encourage the law enforcement agencies who are conducting the investigations related to recent events to promptly and thoroughly review all pertinent facts and to furnish the City with the results of their investigations, as soon as possible.
After the ongoing investigations are completed and all actions to be taken by the courts are concluded, we will take all actions deemed to be warranted and appropriate." - Clarksburg City Council.