BLUEFIELD — A local man has filed a lawsuit arguing that the Bluefield State College violated the Freedom of Information Act and the Open Governmental Proceedings Act when work was underway to acquire Bluefield Regional Medical Center.
On Dec. 17, 2020, the Princeton Community Hospital Board of Directors approved the sale and transfer of Bluefield Regional Medical Center to Bluefield State College. The college will use the facility to provide a dorm and instruction space for its Health Science programs. Under the agreement, BSC will lease back part of the facility to PCH for its emergency department, which will continue operations at the site.
In a lawsuit filed Wednesday at the Mercer County Circuit Clerk’s Office, Jay Folse of Bluefield stated that there were violations of the Open Governmental Proceedings Act. On Dec. 4, 2020, the Bluefield State College Board of Governors authorized Robin Capehart, president of BSC, “to continue negotiations regarding the potential acquisition of Bluefield Regional Medical Center.”
Folse stated in the court document that this “was despite not putting the public on notice that the board would be discussing such an issue. The agenda for the meeting only stated three items as seen on the attached meeting agenda. They were 1) Call to order, 2) Possible Executive Session and 3) Adjournment. This agenda was nothing more of an insult to the requirement to put the public on notice of what will be discussed or decided on at the meeting. Additionally, the requirement to put the public on notice through the Secretary of State of the meeting time, location, and purpose five business days before the meeting was not followed.”
Folse also argues that the college violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In the court document, Folse stated that he sent two emails to Capehart and “only one of those emails appears to have been responded to.” This second FOIA request was sent on Dec. 20, 2020, according to the court document. Folse also said in the court document that Bluefield State had discussed leasing part of a hospital in Wheeling with the City of Wheeling.
At the conclusion of the court document titled “Prayer for Relief,” Folse asks the court for “declaratory relief to annul any decisions made by Bluefield State College or the City of Wheeling pertaining to either the purchase of the Bluefield hospital or the lease of the Wheeling hospital. Also, the actions of the Respondents as it pertains to the foregoing violations of the Open Governmental Proceedings Act should be declared unlawful and in violations of the act. The Petitioner also asks this Court to grant him injunctive relief to compel the Respondents to conduct their meetings and decisions in a lawful manner in accordance with this act.”
Folse was arrested on July 31, 2019 after disrupting a special meeting of the West Virginia University Board of Governors, according to The Morgantown News. Folse, who had been informed that he was banned from the university, was sitting in the audience section before the meeting started and refused to leave when an officer with the WVU Police asked him to comply with the ban. Folse was charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct and obstructing an officer.
In a statement from WVU, university officials said that the no trespassing ban was placed on Folse July 8, 2019, for university property after threatening and harassing university officials. Folse previously refused to leave the executive session portion of a WVU Board of Governors meeting at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in June 2019, according to the July 31, 2019 story in The Morgantown News.
Capehart referred comment Friday to Brent Benjamin, executive vice president and general counsel for Bluefield State. Benjamin was unavailable for comment Friday.
The court document’s case number is 21-C-64.
— Contact Greg Jordan at firstname.lastname@example.org