UPDATE: Backus Files Complaint Against Judge In Parkersburg Lawsuit

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Update: 12/12/2013 3:00 P.M.

Joseph Backus has filed a complaint with the judge who dismissed his recent lawsuit against the city of Parkersburg.

Backus charges federal judge Joseph Goodwin has connections with the city that should have been disclosed when he was assigned the case.

Judge Goodwin dismissed the case in early November.

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UPDATE 11/06/2013 5:20 PM

Case dismissed.

One man's battle against Mayor Bob Newell and the City of Parkersburg comes to an end in federal court.

A federal court judge dismissed Joseph Backus' libel and invasion of privacy lawsuit against the city.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin granted the city's request for a summary judgement dismissing the suit filed by the former city council candidate.

Backus accused the city of libel and an invasion of privacy regarding background checks done on him following critical comments made by Backus.

Backus wanted $12 million in damages.

Backus-- who contacted us Wednesday--claims he could appeal the judge's ruling. He declined to comment further, on the advice of his attorney.
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Updated: 12/21/2012 6:40 P.M.

Mayor Bob Newell confirms the latest of those sworn depositions happened at his city hall office Thursday.

Joseph Backus claimed the mayor and police conducted illegal background checks which his reputation..

That suit was filed back in June.

Mayor Newell, the city of Parkersburg and Police Chief Joe Martin have all stated Backus suffered no damages from the checks.

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Updated: 7/06/2012 11:25 A.M.

The defendants in a civil suit filed by a Parkersburg resident say a background check done on him was legal.

Joseph Backus filed the suit in June, naming the City of Parkersburg, Mayor Bob Newell and Police Chief Joseph Martin.

Backus claimed background checks conducted of him by the city were illegal, and that his reputation was damaged by e-mails sent to local news media.

In a response to Backus' suit, filed this week in federal court, attiorneys for Newell, Martin and the city say Backus suffered no damages from the checks, and that his claim for punitive damages violates the defendants' rights.

The response goes on to say the city, Newell and Martin acted in good faith and in the interersts of the city. They request a jury trial where possible.

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Response from Mayor Newell

"The City of Parkersburg was served with the lawsuit from Mr. Backus yesterday. Our insurance carrier has assigned an attorney and the case will be moved to Federal Court in Charleston for dismissal.

Mr. Backus has no basis for a lawsuit. He is the only person to this day to inform the public through the local media of his private or public difficulties. His name was never mentioned in an email to the General Manager of WTAP Television or the publisher of the Parkersburg News & Sentinel.

No information has been released by the City of Parkersburg about anyone involved in the Tea Party. As a matter of fact, Sandy Staats came to my office and commended me for never attacking her personally or making derogatory statements about her even after she had posted a photograph on the Tea Party Website depicting me as a Nazi.

We will seek reimbursement from Mr. Backus for any costs that occur in this frivolous lawsuit after dismissal. "



Updated: 6/6/2012 6:30 P.M.

Joseph Backus says his background has no similarity to that of Jared Lee Laughner, accused of the fatal shootings in Arizona in which a congresswoman was seriously injured.

"He called me anti-government," Backus said, referring to an e-mail Mayor Bob Newell sent to Parkersburg media shortly after the shootings. "Well, I'm running for city council. Does that sound anti-government? I have never said or done anything that would give him reason to compare me to the shooter in Arizona."

Backus says his only criminal past was a shoplifting case 20 years ago that he says he was never tried for. He says his reputation was damaged by e-mails the mayor sent to area news media. The e-mail did not mention Backus, but referred to a local person whose profile he said matched that of the arizona shooter.

The mayor told was asked Tuesday if Backus' suit was political in nature.

"I think people are smart enough that if this weren't an election year, they wouldn't be doing all this," the mayor said. "I think it's a little grandstanding by a few to take their last shot, or their best shot."

Backus says he wasn't influenced by anyone to file the suit. He is representing himself, after he says he could not find an attorney to do so.

"I just found out in March that these background checks were being conducted, and I immediately began seeking legal action. Whether this was an election year or not, it wouldn't have mattered."

Backus says he is not a member of the Parkersburg Tea Party. He says he has been to some meetings, and circulated petitions in last year's attempt to remove from office the mayor and council members who voted to enact the city user fee.

Backus has also made a civil rights complaint to the FBI.

We have not heard from the FBI on the status of that complaint.


It was statements like this from the president of the Parkersburg Tea Party, which Mayor Bob Newell says prompted him to seek background checks on individuals such as Joe Backus:

(Question: Is this a way to influence some members of council who have voted against the user fee to change their votes?)
(Sandy Staats: "Absloutely.")

Another reason, he says, was the fatal shootings in Arizona in early 2011, in which then-congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was seriously wounded.

"After the shooting in Arizona, we checked a couple of names, in fact," Mayor Newell said Tuesday. "We had several pieces of information that gave us concern."

Tea party president Sandy Staats, who says she, too, was the subject of a background check, denies there was any threat or actions by the organization against the mayor. In a statement, Staats said Joe Backus, who filed the suit, is not a member of the tea party, has only attended one tea party meeting, and that the suit itself has nothing to do with the tea party.

The mayor says part of his concern is security for Parkersburg's municipal building, which does not have guards or metal detectors.

"Our only other alternative is to do what the other federal and county buildings do around here," the mayor said, "and that is to shut the doors, and put up metal detectors. And I'm just not inclined to do that."

The tea party has largely been out of the public eye lately. but although Backus may not be a member, what it may have done is reignite the differences between the city and the organization.


Joseph K. Backus, a Parkersburg resident, city council candidate and city critic, has filed a $12 million lawsuit, charging the mayor and police department conducted illegal background checks on him.

Backus, in the suit filed late Monday, said those checks violated his first, fourth and 14th ammendment rights.

He also claims he was defamed by e-mails sent by Mayor Newell to WTAP and the Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

The suit names the city, the mayor and Police Chief Joe Martin as defendants.


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  • by Anonymous on Aug 6, 2012 at 07:08 PM
    Pro-se doesn't necessarily mean you don't have a good case,it just means that you don't have the bodily injury necessary for a lawyer to represent you. Remember Parkersburg police have a reputation of lying for each other, that is another factor as well as their free insurance lawyer through the City Office.The problem in Parkersburg is that even though many people have been abused by the police,unless they can find a lawyer to represent them,they simply won't go through with a lawsuit out of fear of losing. At least Mr. Backus followed up on his promise to seek reddress for the shameful behavior of the soon to be former mayor? and his puppet/mascot police chief! Every time you let wrongs like this go by when you could have done something it encourages corrupt police and politicians. When all your rights are gone you have no one to blame but yourself.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Aug 9, 2012 at 01:43 PM in reply to
      That's correct, a lot of corrupt police departments will use public humiliation -a false arrest or an anonymous slander campaign because they believe they'll get away with it.Lawyers shy off on police abuse if there are no physical marks where they can show excessive force.Going pro-se makes it look to the general public like the complainer is "fighting city hall"(which in this case is true!)With the number of substantiated cases of police abuse on the internet and everywhere else how can a person call Backus " a disgruntled office seeker".The person who is truly "out of it" is the one who can't see what's happening here with a few of these "bad cops" who ruin it for policemen and women who are trying to be professional.
  • by Disturbed Again Location: South Parkersburg on Jul 10, 2012 at 10:21 AM
    @Evan - Bitter much? I think you should welcome yourself to reality. If a person runs for any kind of public office, they should be prepared to face the consequences of their past. All public officials get their background checked at one time or another. I think it's time to let the bias go look at this case realistically. This is just a political ploy to get the Mayor out of office. I say let the best candidate win regardless of who it is. And, how can you rationalize him winning a monetary agreement. You talk about wasted reasources but you are implying that the city should waste valuable time and "OUR" money for a personal disagreement.
  • by anon on Jul 10, 2012 at 10:12 AM
    Background checks are usually given for perspective employees when there is a good job involved where there will be public responsibility involved. So I presume Mayor Bob is soon going to have that job offer for Backus? Otherwise it appears like someone trying to find some insignificant dirt on Mr. Backus in the hopes it will be (inadvertently?)leaked to some scumbags who will blow this up and splatter it everywhere. Bob likes to attack grandpas and grandmas and make them look like potential terrorists because they want him out of office?i would be surprised if Joe and Bob haven't also been combing Tea Party members' medical records for even more baloney to be used against peaceful citizens.being hospitalized for depression 30 years ago could make you another Richard Speck in Joe and Bob's hopeful eyes.Then they frighten some more grandmas!
  • by Evan Location: Parkersburg on Jul 9, 2012 at 07:35 AM
    Charles and Disturbed Again needs to get their heads out of the clouds. Backus did nothing to bring on the background checks and the same goes for Staats. Newell is abusing his power. The guy had no legitimate reason to have the checks run. To make matters worse, Newell used governement sources to do it. The only people supporting Newell is Newell supporters. Newell also smeared Joe Backus when he said Backus mirrored the profile of the shooter in Arizona. I hope Backus wins. Newell and his cronies need to be booted out of office. They are a disgrace!
  • by Disturbed Again Location: South Parkersburg on Jul 9, 2012 at 05:27 AM
    WOW - 12 million? What kind of idiot complains about the user fee and then sues for 12 million? Granted, we have insurance for things like this but if this happens, insurance rates will go up and the city will be obligated to pay for attorney fees, payroll fees during the time the trial is ongoing, etc. I did not and still do not see the major problem here. If a person running for office or insinuating unverified statements about our government, they should have a background check run. Wake up people, Backus is just another man trying to get something he has not earned. I say he should be fined for wasting the cities time. And he thinks he should be able to run for city council and possibly get elected, NO CHANCE. Put your tail between your legs and take the defeat like a man.
  • by MichaelPiersol Location: Wood County on Jul 8, 2012 at 01:59 PM
    You people are in the minority that are supporting Newell's "illegal" background checks. I guarantee that if the shoe was on the other foot, you all would be just as angry and would be upset as well for being compared to the shooter in Arizona of Congresswoman Giffords. I applaud Joe Backus to standing up to the bully that Newell is. What Newell did was a blatant attempt at trying to find something that he could use to discredit Backus & Tea Party president Sandy Staats becaus eof the recall that was going on at the time. To make matters worse, he used government resources to do it. The Triple I background checks that was run on Backus and Staats are not your ordinary background checks that is accessible for anyone to use. Only law enforcement agencies can use the Triple I checks and they can only be used when the person is under investigation for wrong doing. Neither Backus or Staats was ever under investigation when the Triple I checks were run and hasn't been under investigation since.
    • reply
      by wornout on Jul 9, 2012 at 04:48 PM in reply to MichaelPiersol
      I'm with you here. Newell had no business running a background check here.
    • reply
      by kevin on Jul 9, 2012 at 06:40 PM in reply to MichaelPiersol
      Your a genius!
  • by Charles on Jul 7, 2012 at 10:07 PM
    You better win the 12 million backus, because you will never be elected for public office. This is not the Mayors doing, but your own. No one respects a sue-happy person, especially someone who files frivolous law suits that even the lowest attorneys won't try. Time to hang it up...
  • by lol on Jul 6, 2012 at 03:12 PM
    LOL Joseph you will be lucky to get .12 cents and you dont even deserve that.
  • by HR Location: Parkersburg on Jul 6, 2012 at 11:31 AM
    Background checks cannot be performed by an employer without the potential employee's permission. There are also new regulations going to be put into effect by the EEOC about what information can be requested and how it is used to determine the hireability of the applicant. It's not really right to compare the reasons of a background check on an employee and one used to determine if there is a safety risk. I say suck it up, nothing is private anymore and in today's time, nobody can be too careful.
  • by citizen on Jun 12, 2012 at 03:48 AM
    what are you afraid we might find, mr backus? background and credit checks are commonplace in today's society.
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