Huntington, WV – Residence is the issue in a lawsuit filed by two Republicans against the Cabell County Commission. The residence issue leads to allegations of discrimination and constitutional rights.
Two Republicans who tried to run for Cabell County Commission in 2022 but were ruled ineligible filed the suit. The two — Jan Hite King and Kimberly Maynard — have sued the Commission over not allowing either to file for a 2022 Commission vacancy in District 1. Jan Hite King was also elected to the Cabell County Republican Executive Committee replacing long-time chair T-Anne See.
This week the suit was moved to federal district court in Huntington because it raises federal constitutional issues such as violations of civil rights.
In the original suit, filed on January 30 in Cabell Circuit Court, the plaintiffs maintain their constitutional rights were violated when the Commission would not allow them to run.
They further maintain that sitting Commissioners did not want either of them to run and thus concocted a last-minute redistricting plan designed to make them ineligible. By law, no more than one Commissioner can serve from a district. With the redistricting, only someone living in District 1 was eligible to run and serve.
Defendants include former Cabell County Clerk Phyllis Smith, Assistant Clerk Samantha Collins, the Cabell County Commission, and current Cabell County Clerk Scott Caserta in his capacity as the clerk.
The suit says Caserta was elected after the alleged improper acts took place and is not personally a defendant.
The pair were attempting to file for a Commission vacancy in Magisterial District 1. But the commissioners, acting in their capacity as a Board of Ballot Commissioners, ruled that King lived in District 2 and Maynard in District 3.
The lawsuit says the plaintiffs tried to work with the clerk’s office (Smith) to submit corrected filings that showed they were eligible to run but were not given proper instructions and were told magisterial district maps were not available to confirm residences. They say they were told redistricting had not been completed at that time. Resolutions declaring them ineligible were passed unanimously by commissioners.
The redistricting, mandatory after each U.S. Census, became controversial when commissioners decided to cut the number of magisterial districts from five to three.
State law permits just one Commissioner from each district. The new configuration meant only those living in District 1 were eligible to file.
Legal counsel for the county and the candidates sent letters regarding the eligibility of King and Maynard to run for the seat – to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office.
Former Kanawha County Prosecutor Michael Clifford, an attorney representing King and Maynard, wrote in a February 9, 2022, letter to the Secretary of State’s office that a staff member of the County Clerk’s Office told King to change her magisterial district on her January 29, 2022, filing and King complied.
Clifford maintains that Ancil Ramey, an attorney representing the county, sent a letter to both candidates that instructed them to submit corrected filings that showed they were eligible to run in Magisterial District 1.
Ramey disputes that. In a response letter on February 11, 2022, he wrote that the staff member did not instruct King to change the district number, but processed the original filing.
Ramey said the commission adopted the three-district magisterial map at its December 9, 2021, meeting and that the map is in the clerk’s office and online. Such maps were not available a few months later when a reporter asked to see them but were produced shortly thereafter.
Ramey said in a letter to the Secretary of State at the time, “If these candidates do not withdraw their knowingly fraudulent certificates of candidacy by the statutory deadline, I will refer the matter to the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney of Cabell County for a criminal investigation, and file a formal complaint with the Office of the Secretary of State.”
The suit goes on to say the plaintiffs followed the letter of the law and relied on information provided by the defendants. It asserts the Commission, in last-minute action, sought to redraw the magisterial districts and reduce the number from five to three, so as to specifically eliminate certain candidates including King and Maynard.
The suit acknowledges the plaintiffs received a letter from the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office informing them that an election law complaint had been filed. The West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office by law cannot comment.
The Cabell County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office said the matter was referred to the Wayne County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for special investigations due to a conflict of interest. Wayne County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Deerfield said he was appointed special prosecutor in December and the matter is still pending.
Cabell County Commission officials refused to comment to the press, citing pending litigation.
Charleston attorney Wendy Greve is representing the defendants in the case.
The defendants say they sustained physical, mental, and emotional damages, incurred medical expenses, suffered embarrassment, humiliation, deprivation of liberty, sustained lost wages, and loss of future wages, and are entitled to recover damages.