Newell VFD feels unfairly targeted by smoking ban police

NEW CUMBERLAND, W.Va. — The president of the Newell Volunteer Fire Department board has filed a complaint against the Hancock County Board of Health and the Hancock County Health Department, claiming the health board had not implemented the Clear Air Act fairly.

Mike Nixon addressed the issue with county commissioners last week, asking commissions to investigate whether the health department overstepped boundaries regarding recently conducted inspections.

Nixon said he has been fined twice because he refused to sign a paper from the health department to indicate the fire department is an employer with employees. He said the department is a corporation and technically does not have employees on its roster.

“We are all corporate owners,” he said. “hen I told the health board this, they told me it didn’t matter. I said, ‘Well it does matter.’ (They said), ‘You have to sign this paper stating that you are an employer and you have employees.’ I refused to do it.”

He questioned whether the health department and the board of health have the authority in such a situation, and also questioned how many businesses have signed the letter that he was presented.

“For example, has the commission signed the letter saying they have employees …,” Nixon said. “The prosecuting attorney’s office, have they filed that? Has that been sent to them? See, I don’t know, but here’s the prosecuting attorney’s office imposing fines on me and they haven’t even signed the paper. That’s kind of like a kangaroo system to me. I don’t understand it. I don’t understand how they can do it.”

Nixon said health department personnel visited the fire department 18 times within the past year, which he believed was excessive, and said the Clean Air Act — which prohibits smoking in all public buildings — is supposed to be handled without bias.

“When I read the Clean Air Act law, nowhere in there does it say that it is not to be delivered fairly and equally,” Nixon said. “They cannot use bias or prejudice to invoke this, and throughout all of this, they are proving prejudice and bias.”

Nixon discussed an inspection that took place Sept. 30, 2016. The inspector, he said, was there for an hour and took temperatures reportedly 10 times. Nixon later received a citation after two ashtrays were reportedly found in the stairway near the restrooms, an area Nixon contended the inspector was not authorized to be in.

“That is a storeroom. It has a door with a lock. It has a sign that says ‘Authorized Personnel Only,'” Nixon said. “She did not have permission to go into that room. She went in on her own.”

Nixon also contended he did not see any ashtrays where the inspector had said they were located. Nixon surmised the items were “planted” by the inspector.

“How did she know the ashtrays were upstairs if she’s not the one who went up and got the ashtrays the first time around and brought them down and placed them,” Nixon said. “No one was there with her. She didn’t ask permission from me to go into this private storeroom, so my conclusion is she planted evidence, and I will stand by that because I know that those ashtrays were not there.”

Nixon further added that “no smoking” signs have not been placed on cruisers, buses or other particular business, further adding to his belief of bias.

In response, Jackie Huff, health department administrator, said information on the inspections are available on the county health department’s website.

“It’s all inspections, not just his inspections, that are available on the website,” Huff said.