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by Troy Graham
(June 23) Lewis County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Keadle refused Monday to disqualify the attorney for 18 Weston businesses that are suing the City of Weston. The businesses are seeking to overturn the city's recently enacted business and occupation tax.
The city sought to have W.T. Weber Jr. disqualified because he spent 24 years as the city's attorney, Weber said. His son followed him as Weston's attorney for 16 months until 1996, he said.
"They didn't want to play with us, I guess," Weber said.
Weber said he could not be disqualified because there were no discussions of the tax when either he or his son were counsel for the city.
Christy Smith, the current city attorney, did not return a phone call seeking comment.
A September 4 trial date was also set for the case on Monday, Weber said.
Weber said his clients, which include Citizens Bank and several car dealerships and insurance companies, believe the tax was incorrectly enacted, violating the state and federal constitutions.
For example, the law requires the ordinance to be advertised in local papers. Weber believes the city was in error by advertising in the Clarksburg newspapers and not the Weston Democrat.
Cities around the state, including Clarksburg, have a business and occupation tax. Weber doesn't deny the validity of the tax, but he believes the Weston tax is unconstitutional.
"I don't think there's any question they have a right to enact the tax," he said. "There is a way to make it judicially sound."
Weber said several of his clients are not currently paying the tax.
"The procedures for enactment were not properly followed," he said. "The ordinance itself is not constitutional."