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Sierra Club renews threat to sue logger
by Troy Graham
STAFF WRITER
    Just days after the saga of litigation and logging in the Blackwater Canyon appeared to be over, the 2-year battle between environmentalists and a logging firm has been kicked back into high gear by yet another lawsuit.
    Last Thursday Allegheny Wood Products, a Petersburg firm that has been logging a 3,000-acre tract of the canyon, and the Sierra Club, which had threatened to file a lawsuit to stop the logging, reached an agreement. Under the agreement, Allegheny stopped logging in the 3,000-acre tract and the Sierra Club dropped the suit.
    Then the Sierra Club discovered that Allegheny had filed a notice with the state Division of Forestry to log a 150-acre tract outside the 3,000 acres covered by the agreement. On the same day the agreement was signed, the Sierra Club filed a notice to sue Allegheny again, said state Sierra Club President Jim Sconyers.
    Both the lawsuit the Sierra Club agreed to drop and the new suit argue that Allegheny cannot log the canyon because of the presence of endangered species. Before filing an endangered species lawsuit, a plaintiff is required to file a 60-day notice. The Sierra Club has filed a 60-day notice on its latest lawsuit.
    Sconyers said he was disappointed that Allegheny never mentioned that it owned and planned to log the 150-acre tract outside of the scope of the agreement.
    “I use, instead of words like sleazy and scheming, I say they’re wily and clever,” he said. “I guess it just depends on how you look at it, whether it’s just good business practice.”
    The new lawsuit seeks to stop logging on “any and all lands within Blackwater Canyon on which Allegheny Wood Products may be conducting timber operations.”
    But the 150 acres is the only land Allegheny owns in the canyon that isn’t covered by the agreement, said Allegheny Spokeswoman Donna Reckart. Allegheny has permission from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to log there, even though there is a cave five miles away where an endangered species of bat is found, she said. The bats are in hibernation until at least March 31. Allegheny has permission to log until that date, Reckart said.
    “This is all above board,” she said. “Their notice says we’re going to harm endangered species, but we’re not.”
The negotiations with the Sierra Club only centered on the 3,000 acres, and Allegheny did not have to discuss the other land, Reckart said.
    “We were only discussing the potential lawsuit,” she said. “This had nothing to do with what they were talking about.”
Although Allegheny has stopped logging the 3,000-acre tract, the agreement does not ensure that the 3,000 acres will never be logged again. The agreement merely says that Allegheny must give the Sierra Club a 60-day notice before logging again, giving the Sierra Club enough time to file another lawsuit.
    The agreement only halts logging if Allegheny does not want to deal with a lawsuit, Sconyers said. He fears that if Allegheny is ever prepared to deal with a lawsuit it will begin logging the 3,000 acres again.
    “Let’s face it, they weren’t ready to deal with a lawsuit,” Sconyers said. “They’re probably getting ready.”
Reckart said whether Allegheny wants to log there again, and face a lawsuit, will be up to company president, John Crites, to decide.
    “I do know that this agreement doesn’t say we’ll never harvest our own land,” she said. “We’re not ashamed of what we’re doing. We’re not raping the land.”



Clarksburg city attorney faces ethics violations
by Paul Leakan
STAFF WRITER
    A state board that oversees lawyers said that Clarksburg City Attorney John A. Farmer allegedly violated six state rules of conduct while in private practice and during his time as city attorney.
    Farmer, who recently resigned his post as city attorney, said there is a possibility that he may give up his license to practice law in West Virginia. He said he isn’t exactly sure what he is going to do about the pending action, although he has filed a written response to the allegations.
    The Investigative Panel of the state Lawyer Disciplinary Board, an administrative arm of the state Supreme Court of Appeals that regulates the conduct of West Virginia attorneys, issued a statement of six alleged violations and complaints against Farmer on Oct. 17, 1998.
    According to the panel, Farmer’s alleged violations, which stem from complaints made against the attorney mostly before he began his term as city attorney in September 1997, include:
— Diligence: A Harrison County woman said that she retained Farmer for $90 in 1996 to file charges against her landlord for trespassing and stealing clothes, furniture, food and other sentimental items.
 Anna L. Collier alleged that she made several attempts to get back in touch with Farmer on the case, yet he refused to speak with her. Farmer allegedly violated the state rules of conduct because he failed to act with reasonable promptness and diligence in representing Collier, the panel found.
— Communication: In the same case, Collier alleged that when her friend was able to contact Farmer, Farmer assured him that the case would be going to court soon.
    Months after Farmer was retained for the case, Collier’s friend discovered that no suits involving the case had been filed at the Harrison County Circuit Court, according to records. The disciplinary board said Farmer allegedly violated the state rules of professional conduct by failing to communicate with his client and failing to advise her of the status of the matter.
— Misconduct: Collier also alleged that Farmer advised her friend that hearing dates would be set, and that he would advise her of those dates, when in fact no complaint had been filed. The disciplinary board alleged that Farmer violated the state rules of professional conduct through misconduct, which is defined as engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.
— Scope of representation: In a separate complaint, Farmer allegedly failed to ask his client how he wanted Farmer to pursue action in a change-of-custody hearing in a divorce suit. The disciplinary board alleged Farmer violated the state rules of professional conduct by failing to abide by a client’s decisions concerning the objectives of the case.
— Bar admission and disciplinary matters: In the divorce case, a complaint was filed against Farmer because he allegedly falsely advised his client that a hearing had been set in the case.
    Two complaints were sent to Farmer by the state Disciplinary Counsel beginning in Jan. 1998, but no response was received until April 1998. By failing to answer the complaint, and causing the investigative panel of the disciplinary board to subpoena him to respond to the allegations of the complaint, the board alleged that Farmer violated the state bar admission and disciplinary matters rules.
— Declining or terminating representation: In another case, the advisory board alleged that Farmer violated the rules of professional conduct because after he was fired from a case, he failed to provide the client’s new lawyer with files on the case. The complaint states that Farmer reported that he lost the file.
    The hearing panel of the state Lawyer Disciplinary Board now is charged with the task of reviewing the case and making recommendations for action, if any, to the Supreme Court of Appeals. No date has been set for a hearing on the charges. Farmer responded to the charges, but would not discuss his response.
    The board could recommend reprimanding, suspending or even revoking the Bridgeport resident’s license to practice law in the state. The state Supreme Court ultimately decides what disciplinary action is necessary.
    Whatever recommendations are made, there are no criminal implications to the charges, said Steven Knopp, a lawyer for the office of the state Disciplinary Counsel.
    Farmer declined to comment on any specifics of the case. The West Virginia University College of Law graduate turned in his resignation as city attorney in early February. He will remain at the post until the end of the month. Farmer said his decision to resign was of a “personal nature.”
    “There’s a lot of factors,” that went into the decision to resign, Farmer said. “This is all a delicate situation.”
Clarksburg Mayor Louis Iquinto said he had no knowledge of the pending charges against Farmer.
    “I had no knowledge of anything being wrong. John always seemed like a nice fella. He’s never said anything to me about it. I didn’t even know why he was quitting.”



$17M expansion slated for Salem youth home
by Torie Knight
STAFF WRITER
    A $17 million expansion project at the West Virginia Industrial Home for Youth in Salem could help bring West Virginia juveniles in out-of-state detention centers home.
    The project includes the construction of a new housing facility and classrooms. It will increase the size of the facility by 140 beds and nearly double the guard force by the time it is completed in late 2000 or early 2001, officials said.
    There are currently 78 employees at the home, including cooks, guards, maintenance workers and counselors.
“It is a very needed project and is moving along quickly,” Steve Canterbury, director of the West Virginia Regional Jail Authority, said Tuesday.
    The Regional Jail Authority is responsible for the construction of both regional jails and juvenile detention centers in the state.
    Canterbury said a couple hundred West Virginia youth are housed out-of-state. Not all of them can be brought back home but most can, he said. Some of the juveniles have special needs and must be housed at special centers only offered in other states.
    “There are some that could be brought home and we need to have room for them,” Canterbury said.
West Virginia has seven juvenile centers, including the Davis Center in Tucker County, and five other detention centers across the state. The Salem facility is the only maximum security facility in the state.
Paul Leeper, superintendent of the Industrial Home for Youth, said the expansion could triple the amount of youth in the home. He expects to be able to house between 320 to 325 youth when it is completed. As of Tuesday, 106 youth were in the Salem home.
    “All of our resources will multiply,” Leeper said. “It will open up avenues of employment.” How many jobs will be created from the expansion hasn’t been determined yet.
    Leeper said the state hopes to increase programs to treat problems of juveniles so they won’t commit crimes after being released from centers. “Locking them up doesn’t just solve the problem,” Leeper said.
    Construction crews began tearing down an old building at the Salem site Monday. Construction of the new school building and expanded housing facility should start next week.



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