Chester council rebuffs mayor’s choices

CHESTER, W.Va. – The administration of new Chester Mayor Larry Forsythe got off to a rocky start on Monday with city council’s rejection of three out of four of his appointments.

Council members spoke with their votes, but residents used their voices in a sometimes acrimonious meeting to support the three incumbents that Forsythe was seeking to replace – police Chief Ken Thorn, Solicitor April Manypenny Raines and City Court Judge Curtis Parkins.

“I was taught, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ ” said Cindy Fletcher. “(Thorn) has been an excellent chief for 20 years.”

Fletcher’s remarks drew applause, and one person in the standing-room-only audience held up a sign that read “We Support Thorn.”

Forsythe’s appointment of Assistant Chief Todd Murray as police chief was rejected by council by a vote of 4-1. New Ward 4 Councilman Ed Beaumont voted for Murray’s appointment.

Residents who spoke in favor of retaining Thorn said he has done a good job and deserves to retire as chief – not as a patrolman drawing chief’s wages.

“This is not a political thing for Ken. It’s a personal thing,” Fletcher said.

Thorn’s son, Jason Thorn, said he started an online petition on Sunday, and 156 supporters had already signed it.

Council rejected Forsythe’s appointment of the Frankovitch, Anetakis, Colantonio & Simon law firm as the city solicitor. The vote was 4-1, with Beaumont voting for the appointment.

Ward 5 Councilman Steve Shuman and former mayoral candidate Cody Williams asked whether Forsythe’s appointment represented a conflict of interest, since Forsythe’s son-in-law, Thomas Decapio, is with the firm.

“They have 11 attorneys,” Forsythe said, “so one of those attorneys will represent us.”

Council unanimously reappointed Raines as solicitor. “I enjoy this job. I’m from Chester. I would love to stay on,” she said before the vote.

Council also rejected Forsythe’s appointment of former Hancock County Sheriff Joe Geisse Sr. as city court judge and reappointed Parkins. Both votes were unanimous.

“I’ve done a good job for the city of Chester,” Parkins said, “and I don’t think you need to change anything that’s not broke.”

Council affirmed Forsythe’s reappointment of Jasen Havens as city water superintendent.

After the meeting, Forsythe seemed sanguine about the results. “The process worked. I made my nominations and council – they’re the final call,” he said. “We’ll be fine. We’ll move on from here.”

Also Monday, council:

* Approved the closure of the 300 block of Indiana Avenue for First Christian Church’s second annual Block Party on July 27.

* Reappointed Elaine Hyatt as Chester Municipal Court clerk.