AND THEN AGAIN by Tamara Pettit

……Can you or should you wear two hats when you are an elected official?  Two  elected officials doing so on a county and municipal level have raised concern.   When Weirton City Manager Joe Dibartolomeo voiced a variety of concerns to Council prior to his resignation, he cited City Council member Attorney Mike Adams  for holding both elective office in Weirton  and  an appointive position in the County which according to Dibartolomeo is in violation of the City’s charter.   Adams along with City Attorney Vince Gurrera was appointed by Prosecuting Attorney Stephen Dragisich  to serve as Hancock County Assistant Prosecutor in January.  According to Dibartolomeo, the  City Charter forbids a Councilman from holding an elective or appointive position in addition to his/her Council seat.   (Adams not only serves on Council and as an Assistant Prosecutor, but also serves as Chester City Attorney.)

….Adams responded to Dibartolomeo’s assertions at a special council meeting held Thursday evening.  According to Adams, he is an “employee at will” of the Prosecutor’s Office.   He also cited the WV State Code which does not forbid an elective official from holding appointive position and cited several State Supreme Court decisions to support his case.  He noted that former Delegate Ronnie Jones served as a City Councilman while in the House of Delegates.   (Two elective positions.)

…..As for Gurrera, I don’t think the ordinance would prevent him from serving in both capacities.   Both of his positions are appointive.    Is there a potential for conflict?   Perhaps, but we’re a very small county and we have to rely on our officials to recognize when a conflict  occurs and take the appropriate action.

…..Board of Education member  Chris Gillette is treading on  tenuous water when he mixes his Board of Education member status with his actions as President of the Weir High Boosters.  Gillette had “Middle School athletics” placed on the agenda at Monday’s Board of Education meeting.  He told the Board he had been talking with 22 parents to determine interest in bringing baseball to the middle school.   In what capacity was he speaking?  If it was acting only as the Booster president he wouldn’t have been able to have the issue placed on the Agenda.      Was it appropriate to pursue the issue on his own and then bring it before the Board?

……..No, in my opinion Gillette crossed several lines.  He asked Board President Danny Kaser “Did I do something wrong?”  In my opinion, he did.  He used his seat on the Board of Education to push an issue for a sector exclusive to one sport and to one area of the county.   The hair on the back of my neck stood up when Gillette was asked if he had surveyed any of the Oak Glen students and responded “No, I don’t have any contacts up there.”    A Board member is elected from a specific district to ensure there is equal representation throughout the county, but he/she is charged with representing the needs of the students in all the County’s schools. 

……The training received by new Board members is pretty clear on the duties and guidelines of the office.  Board members who have tunnel vision or overstep their position need to revisit the training.  Board member Larry Shaw was absolutely on target when he said bringing additional sports to the middle school would entail looking at all the sports: soccer, cross country, swimming and bowling. Board Member Michelle Chappell was correct when she cautioned that adding any sport has an impact on the budget.

…..Should Gillette be President of the Boosters while a member of the Board of Education?  Only if he can make sure he is able to separate the two roles.

…..In a small state in small counties, the pool of individuals willing to serve in elective or  appointive position is limited.  I served with several delegates who also served as mayors their small communities.   Adams was correct.   State law doesn’t prohibit it, but can a city charter can be more specific than State code?  I had always heard that municipal law can be more specific as long as it’s not in conflict with State law. 

……Since I always manage to find family history which is relevant I should mention that my Dad in fact, ran for the House of Delegates (State)while he was serving as Justice of the Peace (county) while also serving as Municipal Judge (municipal).  He lost that election the late Callie Tsapis and George Griffith, but I always felt that had he won he would not be able to serve.

……The Top of West Virginia Convention & Visitors Bureau is again advertising for an Executive Director.   This time they are advertising on Indeed and I see the pay is listed between $55,000.00 and $75,000.00.  I think  the group needs to revisit their mission and determine if their activities are in compliance with their  mission before trying to hire a new director.    The mission was to promote Tourism.  That means bringing people into Brooke and Hancock Counties from OUTSIDE the area to spend money and support business.     It’s really nice that musical groups are brought in for free entertainment at the Event Centre in Weirton, but is that attracting tourists or just providing free entertainment for local residents at the taxpayer’s expense?      While promoting the arts in our area is important, are the art shows going to bring people to Hancock County?

…  We can’t justify the expenditure of taxpayer dollars for the current activities.   The Board either needs to return the CVB to its mission or the Legislature needs to do away with them.   Hard line? Absolutely!  Unpopular view?  Yep!    But, that’s why I’m no longer in elective office and now own a newspaper, so sometimes I can voice an unpopular position.

…….This is the time of the year when newly elected local officials take office.   Bravo to those who are willing to take the time and serve on a municipal or county level.   While these positions pay little to nothing, that doesn’t mitigate the responsibility that comes with the job.   Luckily,  training is now available online.  Newly elected officials need to take the training and make sure their actions adhere to the law.

…… An example is the  charge by the former Weirton City Manager Joe Dibartolomeo that Weirton Council violated the “Sunshine” law by going into Executive session without stating a purpose when the Convention and Visitors Bureau was discussed back in November.   The  only allowable reasons for executive sessions are personnel issues, pending litigation, purchase of property, a pending investigation or emergency situations. Anything else is a  violation.  According to the Code, you can’t plan on going into  an Executive Session (ie: we’re going to go into executive session at our Council meeting) and no decision can be made while in executive session.