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Morgantown Council tables Robert’s Rules issue, appoints Harshbarger to city’s utility board

MORGANTOWN — An ordinance that would shuffle Robert’s Rules of Order down the priority list when determining how Morgantown City Council conducts its meetings was tabled on second reading Tuesday by a 4-3 vote.

Deputy Mayor Danielle Trumble’s motion to table the matter was supported by councilors Joe Abu-Ghannam, Ixya Vega and Brian Butcher.

Robert’s Rules of Order is a widely used guide on parliamentary procedure dating back to the late 1800’s.

The proposed change would essentially state that council will conduct its meetings in accordance with Article 121 of city code and rules adopted by council, with procedural questions decided by the mayor using Roberts Rules of Order as a guide.

City code currently says “Robert’s Rules of Order shall govern the proceedings of Council except as otherwise specifically provided by this article or by ordinance.”

Trumble reiterated many of her points from the Nov. 4 meeting, when she, Vega and Butcher voted against the ordinance on first reading.

Trumble said there is no compiled list of all the procedural rules adopted by city council, noting that earlier in the meeting councilors raised a question about whether the body had ever set time limits for speakers during public hearings.

“I think we are doing this out of order. I am all for having written rules … But I cannot see saying our rules take precedence over Robert’s Rules of Order when have no freaking clue what those rules are,” Trumble said.

Butcher said he would rather council convene a rules committee before taking this step.

“I think two things can be true at the same time. It’s not at all true that we’re getting rid of Robert’s Rules of Order, but also I have a lot of trepidation about not having a whole comprehensive list,” he said.

In other news from Tuesday’s meeting, the body appointed 6th Ward Councilor Dave Harshbarger to sit on the board of directors for the Morgantown Utility Board.

It was reported last week that council would not reappoint J.T. Straface after 22 years on the MUB Board to make room for a council representative.

The move is in line with proposed changes to Article 169 of city code, which governs the utility board. Those changes were tabled by city council on first reading on Oct. 4. As initially presented the ordinance would, among other things, reserve one of MUB’s five board seats for a member of city council and make the city manager a sixth, non-voting member.

Straface stated MUB’s opposition to the changes and the reasoning behind it during the Oct. 4 council meeting. The two sides have been in talks since the matter was tabled by council.

In other news, council unanimously approved a bid of $1,992,470 from Pennsylvania-based Cast & Baker Corporation for Phase 2 of the airport runway extension project.

Lastly, during public remarks to council, Morgantown property owner and businessman James Giuliani said he intends to run for council’s 1st Ward seat in the city’s April election.

“I’ve been a resident of the city of Morgantown for all my life,” Giuliani said. “I started in business in the city of Morgantown when I was 15, 16 years old … I’ve been committed to Morgantown all that time.”

Council’s 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th ward seats are up for election in 2023.