CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia's high court ruled Thursday that a longtime Taylor County commissioner can keep his seat after a prolonged fight over whether he lives in the wrong district.
A lower court judge said last year that Commissioner Tony J. Veltri would have to give up his seat in the north-central West Virginia county. The state Supreme Court reversed that ruling and said Veltri can serve out his six-year term.
In its unsigned opinion, the Supreme Court noted that a series of redistricting actions in 1983 and 1984 had shifted Veltri's home back and forth between districts. But it said the final action returned his home to the district he has long represented.
The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the Taylor County Democratic Executive Committee and John Michael Withers that sought to have Veltri disqualified. Veltri, a Republican, defeated Withers in the 2010 election.
In its ruling, the court wrote: "Commissioner Veltri has lived at the same physical address since 1944. The location of his home consistently has been within Precinct 6 of Tygart District, except for a short period of time in late 1983 and 1984 when redistricting plans placed the home within the Western District."
Veltri , who owns a hardware store and a pet store, has been a commission member since 1992.
"I'm certainly glad I won," he said in an interview. "I felt that I've been right all along."
He said the legal fight over whether he had a rightful place on the commission has been a distraction.
"I'm not used to these things," Veltri said. "This is the first time in my life I've ever been sued. I've always tried to be a good guy and a good citizen."
Veltri had argued that he had run for public office since the 1960s, and each time the Taylor County clerk had verified that he was a resident of the same precinct.
The Supreme Court also said the lower court should decide whether Veltri is entitled to an award for his attorney's fees.