Morgantown Council to discuss whether manager can serve on utility board

MORGANTOWN — Questions about whether it is appropriate for Morgantown City Manager Paul Brake to sit as a voting member of the Morgantown Utility Board (MUB) will be taken up at next week’s Morgantown City Council Committee of the Whole meeting.

Brake is among the applicants who have applied to fill the expired term of sitting MUB member Bill Rice. Both Rice and Brake have been interviewed by city council, which will ultimately make the appointment.

During Tuesday’s regular council meeting, Mayor Bill Kawecki said the city has one more applicant to interview for the opening.

Kawecki went on to say that MUB management has requested the opportunity to make a presentation to council prior to council’s selection. He said that would take place during the upcoming committee of the whole session.

Councilor Ryan Wallace voiced his concerns during Tuesday morning’s broadcast of WAJR’s Morgantown A.M. He reiterated them Tuesday evening, noting “It does seem to be a conflict.”

Wallace said he’s awaiting a legal opinion from the city attorney’s office regarding language in the city charter pertaining to who can serve on boards created by council.

The section in question reads “Such boards, authorities or commissions shall not be under the authority or supervision of the city manager.”

Wallace said the issue is about whether it is appropriate for a city manager to serve on such a board. He said it is not a question pertinent to the Ethics Act and isn’t due to questions or concerns about Brake’s ability to serve personally.

In other city news, council adopted a West Virginia Municipal League (WVML) resolution calling for a reduction in personal attacks and heated rhetoric and a return to civility in local government.

Brake said the idea originated from the   International City County Management Association, which he recently attended with two other members of city staff. It was then forwarded on to the WVML, which took it up during the Oct. 25-26 WVML Board of Directors quarterly meeting, held in Buckhannon.

The league is asking all 231 member municipalities to sign on.

Brake said the deterioration in discourse has been notable in the last decade or so, particularly for those working in a public capacity.

“This is a trend that permeates down to the local level, and this exists not only here but elsewhere across the country. It makes it difficult to bring sides together and discuss differences and come up with a resolution,” Brake said.

Deputy Mayor Jenny Selin agreed, noting  that the more pointed the dialogue, the more difficult it is for city employees and city council to do their  respective jobs.

“It also makes it more difficult for citizens to be heard when the rhetoric gets heated enough. It just makes it harder for everyone to be heard,” she said.

Also on Tuesday, council approved a contract totaling $160,810 with Coastal Drilling East, LLC for repairs to a slip on Jacob Street.

City Engineer Damien Davis said the small street located off College Avenue has been closed to through traffic for about a year after attempts to address the issues in-house were unsuccessful.

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