| A Spencer businessman is one-up on problems charged against his company.|
The state Supreme Court says an administrative law judge's failure to "maintain control in his hearing room" is reason enough to overturn the judge's ruling against Heeter Construction.
The drama unfolded in the courtroom in 2003, when the lawyers for Heeter and the West Virginia Human Rights Commission repeatedly called each other names more commonly used in the back of a junior high school bus.
Administrative Law Judge Robert Wilson let them get by with it.
Then, the state Human Rights Commission administrative law judge ruled that the company discriminated against six people when it failed to hire them for a highway construction job.
Heeter Construction's home-base is in Spencer.
The Supreme Court returned the case to the commission for a new hearing and recommended that another administrative law judge be assigned to hear the dispute.
The unanimous unsigned opinion stemmed from Heeter Construction's appeal of a June 2004 commission ruling that found the company had not hired the six because of racial, sex or age discrimination.
All six were black.
Human Rights Commission Administrative Law Judge Robert Wilson had ruled that Heeter should pay an undisclosed amount of damages to the six, plus reimburse the cost of the eight-day hearing.
The high court noted that Wilson awarded damages even though he ruled three of the six would not have been hired by the company.
Businessman David P. Heeter, owner of Heeter Construction Inc., has also been involved in a suit against a Logan Banner reporter, alleging libel and invasion of privacy.
In that suit, Heeter alleges the paper published several news stories that presented him in a negative light, citing three separate articles written in 2003-04.
One story focused on a Supreme Court of Appeals decision about evidence in a sexual harassment civil case filed by several women against Heeter.
James Cagle, Heeter's attorney, alleged in the lawsuit that the story's headline is misleading and that several facts within the story's text are either incorrect or misleading, presenting his client in a "false light."
The suit alleged the story misrepresents who possessed and damaged an audio tape that was to be used as evidence in the harassment case.
Cagle says the inaccuracies reflect shame on his client and were published with reckless disregard for the truth, and are libelous.
Another article published in 2003 related to Heeter being arrested on a driving under the influence charge, which was later dismissed.
"By characterizing Plaintiff David P. Heeter as rich, receiving millions of State dollars, by referring to a local office holder as a witness possessing doubtful information related to the case, and by implying that he received special treatment in court the (defendant) has placed (Heeter) in a false light which would be highly offensive to a reasonable person," read the complaint.
The suit says the reporters stories were "falsely portraying Heeter as a millionaire who has purchased justice for himself either through money or politically connected friends."
The suit asked for compensatory and exemplary damages.