(HUNTINGTON, WV) – District 9 Huntington City Councilman Dale Anderson has made clear his intention to resign his position effective Friday in the midst of controversy regarding city funds.
The resignation was confirmed by the City of Huntington Friday afternoon and comes in the wake of controversy stemming from a Monday meeting of the Huntington City Council during which allegations were issued to the council itself – sans Anderson, who has been a no-show in city sessions since early October.
Billy Ray, President of the Guyandotte Neighborhood Association took to the podium during Monday’s session to address Councilman Anderson directly, making note of the latter’s absence and stating his intention to continue to deliver what he had written beforehand as though Anderson were present.
“I believe that we have been the alleged victim of theft by Mountain State Strategies, Michael Dillon, Anne Dandelet, and potentially Councilman Dale Anderson,” began Ray’s comments following a brief introduction.
“In June of this year, we were approached by Councilman Anderson with the opportunity to apply for a micro grant from the city to purchase new signage for the entrances into Guyandotte. On June the 6th of this year, we applied for said grant in the amount of $2,919.40,” Ray continued.
Once arrangements were in place, the association were told that the signage would be in place and ready in time for an upcoming event in the area. This would not turn out to be the case, however, as Ray explains,
“We were informed that these signs would be finished and installed before our ice cream social on August 20th of this year. When the signs were not installed, I contacted Michael Dillon and he informed me that the person that would be installing the signs was injured and had to reschedule.”
With the status of the initial resources from the funding still uncertain, Councilman Anderson approached the group regarding yet another grant offer.
“Later in the month of June, Councilman Anderson approached us again with the opportunity for grant funding for streetlight pole hardware to hang banners and Christmas decorations,” said Ray.
“On July 6th of this year, the amount of $1,862.00 was given to the GNA (Guyandotte Neighborhood Association) for the purchase of said hardware. Both grants at that point were unknowingly given to Councilman Anderson’s political consultant Michael Dillon and Mountain State Strategies.”
Ray then went on to bring to the city council’s attention that none of the resources from the approved grants have been made available in any capacity.
“We have received nothing,” he declared. “No signs; No banners; No decorations; No hardware. Why is it that Mountain State Strategies has received $4,781.40 of city money appropriated to the GNA and [the GNA] have received nothing in return?”
“On October 7th, we were informed by Councilman Anderson that a refund was to be given for the signs. At which point I questioned how a refund could be given on something that was being specially made. Michael Dillon then informed me that he had offered the refund for the price of the signs. When I questioned Mr. Dillon about this, I was given an installation date of October 21.”
Ray, by this time in the correspondence being recollected for council, had grown weary of the confusion and requested the physical signs themselves be provided so the GNA could simply sort out details of installation independently – even going as far as to offer drafting a document relieving Dillon of any liability.
“I told [Dillon] that we just wanted possession of the signs and we would install them ourselves. He was not willing to have someone else put in the signs and he was not going to be liable for that. I then made the offer for the GNA to draw up a waiver of liability so that we could give our community what we had promised them, which was met [with] no reply.”
“On October 20th, we were given information from Michael Dillon stating that there was a problem with our information or a problem with our business license – that the proper paperwork had not been filed in Charleston with the Secretary of State’s Office. I informed Mr. Dillon that we had been sent a copy of that license from that office just a few months before, at which point I wanted to set up a meeting with the mayor to get to the bottom of it. I was then informed, and I quote ‘not to rattle any cages about this, I will handle it.’ end quote.”
Ray then asserted his intention to see to it that answers were provided, reinforcing the notion that he would no simply go away.
“I’m sorry, but I am not one to sit on my hands, and you can ask my mother,” Ray pauses briefly, gesturing to his mother seated in attendance, ” I’m not one to do what I’m told.”
“I was raised to get my hands dirty and put in the work, and that’s exactly what I’m doing. I have copies of all receipts, cancelled checks, invoices, the original designs for our signs, and text messages between myself and Mr. Dillon, and Councilman Anderson about the signs. I am also aware that Mr. Dillon has tried to align himself and his company with different neighborhood organizations in the past only for the group to end up folding.”
“I refuse to let that happen to a group that we have worked so hard to build. Now, once again, we have had a huge event in our community with no new signage. We are now facing questions from people in our community… about the funds that were supposed to go into these signs, and we are getting no answers from our councilman, and only excuses from Michael Dillon.”
Ray then resolved to address Anderson directly, despite his noted absence from the proceedings on Monday.
“I wanted to ask Mr. Anderson a question but I’m going to ask it anyway [in his absence.] I would like to know at what point did Mr. Anderson forget that a hamburger didn’t put him in office, but the people of District 9 did. And believe me, when it comes time to elect a new city councilman, I will make sure that people do not forget where his loyalty and attention lie.”
“I understand that everyone has lives outside of this building, and neighborhood obligations. But sir, you have not lifted a finger in support of the group that you put together. Not one cleanup; not one bit of yard work; not the first cup of ice cream churned or sold. You came to us because you saw what we had already been able to accomplish before we, Billy Ray, Anita Henchman, Melanie Ray, Mandy McAllister, and everybody else here from Guyandotte was willing to do before we were the GNA. Well, we’re here now and we want answers, and we want what we’ve paid for,” Ray concluded. “Thank you very much for your time.”
In light of the remarks the council motioned and voted in favor of waiving the rules preventing immediate discussion of public comment during city sessions.
The following day, Tuesday, November 15, 2022, the Huntington City Council by way of Council Chairwoman Holly Mount issued a memorandum to Mayor Steve Williams stating that, “pursuant to Article Three, Section 3.7 of the City Charter,” a special meeting of the council would take place at the City Council Chambers on Friday, November 18, 2022, at 5:00pm.
It would be in this meeting that the council intended to authorize the appointment of “an independent qualified person to conduct an investigation of the expenditures of micro-grant and/or American Rescue Plan Act funds allocated to 9th District Council Member Dale Anderson; and authorizing the chair to file a complaint with the West Virginia Ethics Commission regarding the same.”
Former Councilman Anderson’s resignation notably was announced mere hours prior to the special meeting scheduled to take place during which his ethical behavior was to be the central topic of discussion.
As for Mountain State Strategies political consultant Michael Dillon, an extensive record of fraudulent practices dating back years is a not-so-well-kept secret in political circles throughout the Mountain State.
Despite his long-spanning background of nefarious dealings, Dillon’s involvement with local political figures has somehow continued, with Dillon having “worked” with a number of folks involved in the 2022 primary elections, including sitting incumbent for the 28th District, Republican Josh Booth who was ultimately unseated by a single vote.
Those who have involved themselves with Dillon in the past tend to paint a similar picture of events as did Billy Ray at Monday’s meeting of the Huntington City Council; that being a sequence of: offer made, funds allocated, funds nowhere to be found, flimsy excuse pertaining to injury or illness, Dillon absconds with funds.
One could surmise that the reason so many affected by this behavior choose not to pursue legal action is that the funds in question are, generally speaking, relatively small in the grand political scheme. As such, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that many actively busy individuals in the political realm would sooner forget about such an incident altogether than jump through legal hoops in pursuit of a few thousand dollars.
However, in circumstances during which behavior of this sort persists with a great enough consistency, there will be an individual – in this case that individual was one Billy Ray – who will put their foot down on a matter of principle and demand answers.
West Virginians, traditionally, also aren’t highly accepting of dishonorable behavior, so to assume that such schemes could continue to go off without a hitch in the Mountain State is imprudent at the very least.
The City of Huntington announced in the wake of Anderson’s resignation that candidates are being sought to fill the District 9 vacancy within the council, and that applications will be received by the City Clerk from 8:30am to 4:30pm from Monday, November 21 through Tuesday, December 6, 2022.
LOOTPRESS will continue to provide updates on this situation as information becomes available.