WHEELING - The ongoing dispute between city officials and Jerome Poynton over when the East Wheeling resident must leave his home should not impact his eligibility in the upcoming mayoral race as long as Poynton still resides within city limits on Tuesday, which is Election Day.
As of Wednesday, no agreement had been reached on a firm deadline for Poynton to vacate the 136 15th St. building and nearby rental property he owns, clearing the way for city officials to build a sports field in the neighborhood. Poynton's properties are among those the city acquired through eminent domain proceedings earlier this year.
Demolition of the block surrounding Poynton's home began Monday. He is the lone opponent to incumbent Andy McKenzie in the mayoral race.
Photo by Ian Hicks
Demolition to make way for a planned sports field in East Wheeling continues just yards from Jerome Poynton’s home, which also is slated to meet the wrecking ball.
State law provides that candidate eligibility requirements "are generally applied as of the day of the election," according to the "Best Practices Guide to Municipal Elections" published by West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant's office. Those criteria include residency in the city at-large for mayoral candidates and residency in the ward a council candidate seeks to represent.
State law also states "neither the municipal recorders nor the governing bodies" have the authority to judge a candidate's eligibility. Such challenges may only come through court proceedings before or after the election, or through a candidate contesting election results before the board of canvassers if the candidate in question wins.
The canvassing board in municipal elections is composed of all voting members of City Council - in Wheeling's case, all council members and the mayor. The law notes that "should an incumbent office-holder's election be at stake in a contest, that member may not participate in contest proceedings for his/her particular race."
Candidates can appeal the results of an election contest to circuit court.
Circuit Judge Arthur Recht in January dismissed claims from property owners Poynton, Helen Adelson and David Coleman that the proposed sports field would be for private rather than public use. The state Supreme Court has yet to rule in an appeal of that decision, but last month denied an emergency stay of the city's right of entry to the properties.
On March 23, the city ordered Poynton out of his home by midnight April 30, but the city has yet to enforce that order. City Manager Robert Herron said the city is working with Poynton's attorney on an agreement concerning a firm deadline.
Poynton said running a campaign is time consuming and he needs more time to move his belongings, which include various collections of literature, artwork and textiles. He said he's been looking for a new place to live but his primary focus right now is on the election.
He believes if elected, he can preserve his and many of the other condemned buildings that he said are not in severe disrepair and implement an alternative plan to develop the lots where buildings need to be demolished.
To date, the city has spent $670,000 to acquire and abate the properties in the block of Wood Street between 15th and 16th streets. Sources for the remainder of the estimated $2.5 million total project cost have not been identified, but officials said they are confident the sports field project will proceed.
In addition to an artificial turf field for soccer, lacrosse and football and a running track, the project includes lighting and upgrades to the Elks Playground.