The West Virginia Fire Commission has initiated a complaint against Clarksburg's code enforcement office after it received complaints from people, businesses, and organizations concerning The City of Clarksburg and its employees.
The Fire Commission alleges that Clarksburg Code Office employees were unlicensed or had invalid continuing education certificates and that employees utilized an unlawful building code to target specific properties and property owners, according to the complaint.
Beginning in September 2013, the Fire Commission designated the office of the Attorney General to begin evaluating Clarksburg's building code program following numerous complaints that had been filed with the commission, along with the Governor Earl Ray Tomblin's office, the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, and the Office of the State Fire Marshal. These complaints led to the review of Clarksburg's documents and interviews with alleged victims and witnesses. The Fire Commission asserts that code office employees acted independently or together to "enrich themselves and others through the use of public funds and the unlawful building code program," said the filing. City employees named in the lawsuit include Adam Barbario, H. Keith Kesling, Jonathan Davis, and Brian Kennedy.
The investigation revealed that The City of Clarksburg had unlawfully amended the board of appeals from a five member panel to a three member panel in April 2009, which is contrary to the state's building code, said the complaint. Clarksburg also failed to meet the notice of requirements of the state building code when informing property owners of specific violations and why the notice was issued, which includes a correction order to make repairs and improvements or allows residents to appeal, said the complaint. The city of Clarksburg is presently involved in two federal lawsuits, which also argue that the city used outdated building codes to target properties.
"We have been very open with all of our records upon the onset of their inquiry. We have not received the same in return, as we have attempted to communicate with the various entities and individuals to no avail," said Martin Howe, Clarksburg City Manager. "As of today, we have not been officially served or provided any documents from the fire commission. We will await to review those documents upon receipt of the official complaint," said Howe.
The Fire Commission will appoint a hearing examiner to handle the complaint, said Lawrence Messina of the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety. The hearing examiner will set a schedule for public hearings in both Clarksburg and Charleston. During those hearings, the Fire Commission, the city of Clarksburg and Barbario, Kesling, Davis, and Kennedy will have the opportunity to present their sides of the case. If evidence is present to support to the complaints against Clarksburg, the Fire Commission could issue a cease and desist order to the city if the Code Office's conduct is found to be at odds with the state law and the four employees involved could be refused certification, said Messina.