Editorials, Opinion

City council didn’t know Hathaway could not serve

We are not above admitting we’ve made a mistake when it comes to our attention that one has been made. In this case, the error was conflating the city and city council.

In our Sunday, May 23, editorial, we said the city and city council knew before the April 27 council election that Patrick Hathaway would be unable to fill the First Ward seat, should he be elected. It has since come to our attention that while Hathaway informed the city attorney several days before the election that he would be moving to Illinois for his wife’s new job, the information was not shared with the current members of city council.

Our ire with the situation remains valid, but it should not have been directed at the council.

When we think of the City of Morgantown’s government, we think of city council. After all, these are the people we elect; these are the policymakers, so we assumed council members would be informed. However, it appears there is a stark dividing line between city council and city administration, and what is communicated to city administration does not always have to be shared with city council.

We think this needs to change. It seems this separation has caused miscommunications in the past — not only between council and administration, but between the city government and the public. (The Wings Olé parking lot debacle comes to mind.)

Our original argument still stands. The public had a right to know — prior to the election — that one candidate on the ballot would not be eligible to take his seat. We are not sure at this time who — other than the city attorney, Ryan Simonton — knew of Hathaway’s move and what responsibility the city’s attorney has to disclose or keep that information quiet. Calls to Simonton for clarification had not been returned by print deadline.

What we do know for sure is that city council has the authority to call a special election. The new council will have 30 days to appoint someone to fill the First Ward seat, beginning July 1. However, they can choose to hold a special election instead.

We hope we’ll have an editorial this summer encouraging Morgantown residents to vote in a special election rather than one commenting on the council’s appointment.

In the meantime, we humbly apologize for assuming the current city council was aware of Hathaway’s decision not to serve if elected.