Morgantown City Council considers stripping Brazaitis of deputy mayor designation

MORGANTOWN — The Morgantown City Council soon will consider removing the deputy mayor designation from  6th Ward Councilor Mark Brazaitis.

Three of four council members present Tuesday night expressed an interest in having that “difficult conversation” in response to inflammatory rhetoric Brazaitis has used in targeting individuals and entities such as WVU, the Monongalia County Commission and Mylan Park.

Councilor Ryan Wallace raised the issue, which he admitted was a “sensitive topic” in light of  Brazaitis checking himself into Ruby Memorial Hospital earlier Tuesday for evaluation after spending all night as the subject of a police search.

Morgantown police were dispatched to Brazaitis’ home just after 8 p.m. Monday after a call for service from the residence. Sources indicate there was an attempt to have him committed involuntarily for evaluation. He was not present when officers arrived.

Brazaitis, an author and English professor at West Virginia University, has been open about his  struggles with mental illness.

Wallace did not address the drama of the previous 24 hours, focusing instead on Brazaitis’s increasingly divisive comments. Wallace said he asked Brazaitis multiple times  to relinquish the title, only to be refused.

“I do not believe the ends justify the means when conducting city business and I believe Mark does. … I’m concerned that it has become common in our community for people to speak of Mark as the voice of city council despite individual councilors stating otherwise.

“I’m concerned that he has alienated unnecessarily many of our constituents and people we must collaborate with in our community and just beyond our borders.”

Wallace contends the council has a right to self-protection under Robert’s Rules of Order allowing disciplinary action toward members. He clarified that he is not asking for Brazaitis  to vacate his council seat.

Mayor Bill Kawecki echoed  concerns that Brazaitis has been too aggressively outspoken.

“Unfortunately Mark has put himself in the position of having people assume he’s speaking for council. And I know for a fact council has some reservations about that which have been expressed to me,” said Kawecki, calling it “certainly appropriate” to put his removal on an upcoming agenda.

While Councilor Ron Dulaney previously expressed regret in voting to return Brazaitis to the largely ceremonial role of  deputy mayor, he did not comment further Tuesday other than to express his support for Wallace’s request.

Also absent from the meeting were 4th Ward representative Jenny Selin  —   who previously stated the council must do something about Brazaitis — and 1st Ward councilor Rachel Fetty.

Brazaitis recently went against the wishes of council and BOPARC by individually pursuing an $8.5 million county-wide levy for a new ice skating rink.

He  repeatedly has  attacked his employer, WVU, for entering public-private partnerships, including the $45 million Mylan Park track and aquatic center. Last month he claimed the university was “gutting this town” by taking one-third of Morgantown’s footprint off the tax rolls.

On Monday morning, Brazaitis announced his plan to take on Democrat incumbent Joe Manchin and Republican Patrick Morrisey as a write-in candidacy for the U.S. Senate.

The ensuing 24 hours turned bizarre, with police being dispatched to Brazaitis’s home over what City Manager Paul Brake termed a “non-criminal matter.” Police and Monongalia Sheriff’s deputies conducted an overnight search for the deputy mayor when family members and colleagues grew concerned about his mental state.

Brazaitis  reached out to The Dominion` Post after turning himself in for evaluation on Tuesday.

“Tell people I’m fine … When you want to do great things for the city — and the state — sacrifice is required. I am not afraid,” Brazaitis said via text.

Both the city and WVU expressed their support for Brazaitis in official statements.

WVU Communications Director John Bolt issued the following  when asked about Brazaitis’ status for the start of fall semester classes next week.

“We are thankful that Mark is safe. Any questions about his status at the University, or classes are premature. We will continue to keep Mark in our thoughts while ensuring that his students and colleagues are supported as well.”

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