CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Richwood Mayor Bob Johnson said he's working to restore the city's four-member police department a month after city council members dissolved it.
Eight members of the city council voted on Jan. 2 to let go of Police Chief Larry Tinney and three other officers because they were not certified and therefore couldn't perform essential police duties, Johnson said.
That decision came weeks before State Police arrested one officer for allegedly stealing prescription pills from an evidence locker.
The father of one officer is questioning the council's decision because they voted on it during executive session, he said.
According to the State Open Government Meetings Act, votes may not be taken in executive session and instead the governing body may only vote once it reconvenes in an open meeting.
Mayor Johnson said Thursday that the decision to dissolve the department was announced after the executive session ended. He did not return calls for follow-up comments about possible violations of the State Open Government Meetings Act.
He said Thursday that the city would only temporarily be without an in-house police force. He's exploring ways to restore it, but has no concrete plans.
"I had some great personal hesitation about this entire process," Johnson said.
Richwood, a Nicholas County city of more than 2,400 people, would now rely on protection from State Police in Richwood and Nicholas sheriff's deputies in Summersville.
The department's biggest problem was that it did not attract quality officers, Johnson said.
"We had some issues obtaining certified officers or keeping certified officers on the small department," he said.
Without certification, an officer could not write citations, arrest people or carry a service weapon and other essential police duties.
John Daff said his 20-year-old son Shane had worked at the department for a year and had been accepted to undergo certification at the State Police Academy before the department was dissolved.